World Health Organization surge team to arrive in South Africa

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The South African COVID-19 response will soon be bolstered by a surge team of health experts from the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO will be deploying 43 experts from various fields to support the COVID-19 outbreak response management. The first 17 health expects will arrive today and include key expertise in epidemiology, surveillance, case management, infection, prevention and control, procurement, as well as community mobilization and health education. Among them is Dr David Heymann, a seasoned infectious disease epidemiologist and public health expert, who was at one-time Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment at WHO. He headed the response to the SARS epidemic in 2003, working with his team to mediate international efforts to halt the pandemic.
These deployments have emanated from continued discussions between the Minister of Health, Hon Dr Zweli Mkhize, and WHO global and regional leadership. With South Africa now among the top five of the world’s most affected countries, it is critical to strengthen its COVID-19 response.
“At this time when the COVID-19 epidemic in South Africa is spreading rapidly, it is important that we work together to intensify our fight against the virus,” said Dr Owen Kaluwa, WHO Representative for South Africa. “For this reason, WHO is ramping up support to complement national and provincial efforts to scale-up the response. Our collective efforts are necessary to identify cases, isolate and provide care, follow up contacts and fully implement physical distancing and other key public health measures. In this way we will minimize the spread and impact of COVID19.”
WHO will be primarily responsible for funding the international surge team with South Africa largely being responsible for providing administrative resources for smooth initiation and integration of the partnership.
The surge team will be jointly led by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa and Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. They will work virtually from Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo and Geneva, Switzerland respectively to support the experts on the ground.