South Africa: From Telescopes to Ventilators - - How the Country's Engineers and Designers Have Retooled for the COVID-19 Crisis

Established in a City of Cape Town-owned community sports centre, the Khayelitsha Field Hospital will function as an extension of the adjacent Khayelitsha District Hospital, essentially expanding its capacity to treat moderate to severe COVID-19 cases.
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Production has begun on three local non-invasive respiratory ventilator designs. This is not just good news for hospitals and patients, but also for manufacturing in South Africa.

It's happening about a month later than hoped, but the promise of 10,000 extra ventilators to provide breathing support to Covid-19 patients who end up in hospital is weeks away now.

Production has begun on three locally made models of non-invasive ventilators. In two weeks, the first 1,000 will have been made and after that 1,000 per week will be manufactured until the goal of 10,000 has been reached. If more funding is found, these numbers will double.

This is no small achievement since South Africa does not have a rich history of producing medical equipment.

In April this year, when South Africa had around 1,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases - almost 200,o00 in early July - the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition mandated the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) to manage the national effort required for the local design, development and manufacture of respiratory ventilators.

"I have been blown away by the capacity we have in South Africa," says Justin Jonas, a professor of physics and electronics at Rhodes University. "If...

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