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University of Pretoria models COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa

24th April 2020

Tracking and tracing infections remains crucial to efforts aimed at curbing the pandemic. At the University of Pretoria, a transdisciplinary team from the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics is engaged in a modelling study of the pandemic in South Africa. Also, a repository has been created in the Department of Data Science to provide real-time data on COVID-19 infections globally.

Given that testing also remains key to efforts aimed at addressing the pandemic, the Department of Medical Virology, has established a fully functioning and accredited COVID-19 testing facility to augment the number of testing facilities in South Africa. The Department of Family Medicine has also developed a Community-Oriented Primary Care (COPC) Research unit which is engaged in various outreach projects including COVID-19 screening in rural communities and the Faculty of Health Sciences is providing support for homeless people in the Tshwane area as well as screening and testing for COVID-19.

Furthermore, there have been a number of developments in regard to clinical trials, testing approaches, genome profiling and funding to support research. The University of Pretoria, by virtue of its participation in the WHO’s multi-centre clinical trial for Africa, is working towards the project objective of accurately estimating the effects of antiviral treatments on in-hospital mortality. The university is also leading a South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) study on the development of a rapid test method. Other research initiatives include a collaboration with the Gavan Institute in Sydney, Australia, aimed at profiling risk in South Africa using whole-genome profiles; research on bats as potential carriers of the virus being undertaken by UP’s Centre for Viral Zoonosis. Again, the University is in conversation with several global and African partner universities to develop rapid response grant opportunities to support COVID-19 initiatives

Morever, in support of the efforts of front-line workers, the University of Pretoria’s MakerSpace Centre is producing 3D-printed visor frames to be used as facial shields by health workers. Also, senior medical students have volunteered their services to support doctors with COVID-19 related projects and tasks.

The University is again making key inputs into public education efforts. The Faculty of Health Sciences has developed guidelines to facilitate mental health support for health workers and students, including those involved in COVID-19 initiatives. Various faculties are also developing COVID-19 education material and videos on preventative measures for public education.