U.S. Donates 1,000 Ventilators To South Africa To Assist With Covid-19 Response
The U.S. government, which said it had a shortage of ventilators just six weeks ago, has donated 1,000 ventilators to South Africa, the country with the most reported coronavirus infections on the continent.
Ventilators can save lives of coronavirus patients when the disease has caused the lungs to fail. They take over the body’s breathing process and offer critically ill patients the best chance of survival.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 15 percent of people with covid-19 will have a severe form of the disease that needs some kind of oxygen therapy, and 5 percent will be critically ill, requiring mechanical ventilation.
Once patients goes on a ventilator, the prognosis is bad.
There is just a 20 percent covid-19 survival rate for people who go on a ventilator, according to Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, a New York City-based healthcare provider.
In April, South African health authorities said that the country had less than half of the 7,000 ventilators it needed to treat patients at its projected peak, MedicalBrief reported.
The 1,000 ventilators from the U.S. will bring the total in South Africa to around 4,216 for a population of 57.78 million (2018).
In March, the U.S. identified a shortage of ventilators. Around 2,000 of the 10,000 ventilators held in the U.S. strategic national stockpile were faulty due to a lapsed government contract to maintain the machines.
The Trump administration enacted the Defense Production Act to force U.S. companies to produce medical supplies including masks, respirators, and ventilators that were widely needed to combat covid-19.
The act, first passed in response to the Korean War in 1950, gives the U.S. government broad authority to influence domestic industrial production in certain emergencies.
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General Motors, Tesla, Ford, and General Electric repurposed some of their manufacturing capabilities to join specialist medical ventilator manufacturers in producing the respiratory support machines, The Verge reported.
The ventilators sent to South Africa are valued at $14 million, with the accompanying equipment, service plans, and shipping totaling more than $20 million, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa.
The U.S. government has made a financial commitment to South Africa of more than $41.6 million for covid-19 response. That includes $13.2 million in funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $8.4 million in assistance through USAID.
The ventilators are expected to be sent to various intensive care units in South African hospitals that can accommodate them.