SAHMS standing by to aid national coronavirus prevention operation


The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) is the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) service on alert and ready to assist with national attempts to prevent and contain any possible spread of coronavirus.

The national Department of Health requested assistance from the military medics at ports of entry into South Africa. This will entail providing support to Department of Health officials, according to SANews.

There was, at the time of publication, no specific information on numbers expected to be deployed and disciplines involved. An SANDF source confirmed to defenceWeb the assistance of military medics was asked for, adding details would be finalised in consultation with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s department. There was also no indication of how many ports of entry – air, sea and land – military medics would find themselves deployed to.

Mkhize at the weekend activated a national emergency centre saying a staff build-up to provide correct personnel was underway.

The deployment of military medical personnel will be executed as part of the standing SANDF Operation Prosper. This sees airmen, military medics, sailors and soldiers doing OOTW (operations other than war) to support other government departments and all South Africans. The most recent deployment has been providing support to the SA Police Service (SAPS) in the fight against gang-related crime on the Cape Flats since July. This deployment is expected to finish at the end of March.

As part of the national response to the coronavirus outbreak, declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last Thursday, South Africa is “beefing up” manpower at ports of entry. This is in addition to port health officials being provided with thermometers to “detect the temperature of any traveller arriving in South Africa,” SAnews said. It was also reported a scanner capable of temperature readings has been deployed at OR Tambo International Airport, the country’s busiest port of entry.

South Africa has 57 ports of entry on its landward borders with six countries, including Botswana, where a suspected coronavirus case was reported at the weekend.