The U.S. government, through the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP), has procured and started to distribute 729,000 protective masks to South Africa’s National Department of Health (NDoH) to combat COVID-19.
The FFP2 (filtering face piece particles) respirator masks, which were locally sourced, are approved by the European Union and are the equivalent of the N95 respirator mask used in the United States. The NDOH plans to distribute the masks to health workers on front lines in all nine of South Africa’s provinces.
U.S. Ambassador Lana Marks, speaking at a small handover ceremony today at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria said, “Working tirelessly on the ground in partnership with South Africa, we are mobilizing support to fight COVID-19 together. In addition to our significant financial and technical assistance, we are honored to announce another donation of locally sourced PPE to South Africa’s National Department of Health, which will help to keep essential health workers safe as they work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa. Our ongoing partnership with South Africa is ensuring the fight against COVID-19 is swift and effective.” NDoH was represented at the ceremony by Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Joe Phaahla.
U.S. Embassy personnel transferred the first consignment of 26,000 masks to the NDOH during the handover ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria. Each subsequent consignment will be delivered to the NDoH weekly until all 729,000 masks are provided. In addition to this donation of locally sourced personal protecting equipment, DTRA/BTRP has been working with the South African government since 2010 to enhance disease detection, laboratory-based diagnostics, and disease outbreak investigation capacity, that has strengthened South Africa’s position as a regional leader in biosecurity, biosafety and diagnostic training for the Southern African Development Community.
To date, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has committed US$13.2 million in funding, along with $8.4 million in assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Additionally, this week, the United States announced the donation of up to 1000 ventilators through USAID, with a total value of over $20 million. This brings the total U.S. government commitment to South Africa’s COVID-19 response to over US$41.6 million (R767 million). Additionally, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the United States is supporting up to 5,400 community healthcare workers to assist with the South African government’s community COVID-19 screening campaign and provide HIV treatment support on the front lines.
For more information on the U.S. global response to COVID-19, please visit: https://www.state.gov/coronavirus