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STATEMENT BY THE MNISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION ON THE OCCASION OF THE UNESCO VIRTUAL MINISTERIAL DIALOGUE ON COVID-19 AND OPEN SCIENCE

Monday 30 March 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global challenge. South Africa agrees that a concerted, united global scientific response is required to defeat it.   

 In South Africa, our President has ordered a 21 day lockdown and directed that science be at the forefront of the national fight against COVID-19.   We have reprioritized some of our national research and innovation programmes, mobilized our data scientists (including our capacity in theoretical physics and astronomy) and government has made some resources available to enable all this.  

 Much as we understand that some of the scientific interventions will take some time to provide answers, some immediate interventions are necessary. As South Africa we are developing a central data base as a means of tracking the effects of the virus and provide appropriate responses; the need to understand the local epidemiology and natural history of the virus; and strengthening our 3D capabilities to support manufacturing of assistive devices like ventilators.

 We are also undertaking social and perception surveys about the virus so that we are able to develop appropriate education and information interventions in communities and society. Urgent sharing of data, information and methodologies is of fundamental importance in this regard and for UNESCO to create a portal for such sharing.

 Our comprehensive national research effort also includes programmes related to surveillance, diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccine development.  

 The most important suggestion South Africa is making is that UNESCO urgently create a portal to share information to deal with COVID -19.

 We therefore support the efforts to foster African regional cooperation and we also support this initiative of UNESCO to make Open Science a global reality.   

 Excellencies, we are ready to work with you.