SAMHS personnel commended for COVID-19 pandemic effort

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More than a year after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in South Africa were lifted, SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) personnel were recognised for their contribution to managing the pandemic.

The recognition took the form of commendation certificates presented to military medical officers and personnel by Lieutenant-General Peter Maphaha, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Surgeon-General.

“Their patriotic service was not limited to members of the defence force, but also extended to the public as they headed the Cuban medical brigade, managed Burgers Park quarantine nentre [in the Pretoria central business district] and assisted at South African airports to obviate the spread of coronavirus disease,” is how the certificate presentation was described by SAHMS Corporate Communication.

Military medics, along with personnel from the SA Air Force (SAAF), SA Army and SA Navy (SAN), were integral to government’s announcement of a national state of disaster in March 2020. The “alert levels” moved from one through to four with varying restrictions on peoples’ movement and purchase of goods, including liquor, tobacco products and inexplicably take-away roast chicken and “open-toe sandals”.

The military medical service, at that time commanded by the late Zola Dabula, led an acquisition of a Cuban coronavirus prophylactic, Interferon (Heberon Alpha-2B). The decision to acquire it was reportedly in line with plans and strategies to keep SAMHS and other SANDF personnel from Covid-19 infection. Findings by, among others, the Auditor-General and SAHPRA (SA Health Products Regulatory Authority), stopped payment in excess of $20 million to the Caribbean island state with unused and expired product returned to supplier.