A Cape Town assembly line on Friday rolled off the first of thousands of South African-designed ventilators, responding to requests from hospitals needing them for severe COVID-19 cases but unable to get them on global markets, SA health officials have announced.
African hospitals, especially in South Africa where the pandemic has hit hard, have struggled to cope with a burgeoning case load amid a global scramble favoring richer nations in procuring ventilators and protective gear.
South Africa, which now has the world’s fifth highest infection burden of around 482,169 confirmed cases, launched a 250 million rand ($14.80 million) project in April to locally produce them.
Ebrahim Patel, the trade and industry minister, said the first batch of completed ventilators that came off the assembly line were part of an initial order of 10,000 units. He added that 20,000 would be built in total.
Ventilators are used to supply oxygen to the lungs of severely ill patients, who make up around 5% of overall cases.