The United States has donated 11 000 plastic face masks to the South African Military Health Service (SAMHS) to assist the country’s efforts to combat COVID-19. It is the second personal protective equipment (PPE) donation in two months from the US Embassy.
The SAMHS on 20 June said the PPE will help boost the amount of COVID-19 protective gear available, as more military quarantine facilities and test sites open countrywide.
United States Ambassador Lana Marks, when she was handing over face shields to the value of R1.1 million ($64 000) at the US Embassy compound in Pretoria on 19 June, commended South Africa for its decisive undertaking in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is heartening that the Embassy of United States of America heeded the clarion call by the Commander-in- Chief of the South African National Defence Force, President Cyril Ramaphosa to play a role in mitigating the spread of this devastating COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chief Director Military Health Force Preparation, Major General Ntshavheni Maphaha.
On 23 April the US Embassy in South Africa provided 12 400 protective masks to the SAMHS. The US is also providing PPE to other South African government departments. In mid-May, the Embassy said through the Defence Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP), it has procured and started to distribute 729 000 protective masks to South Africa’s National Department of Health (NDoH).
The FFP2 (filtering face piece particles) respirator masks, which were locally sourced, are approved by the European Union and are the equivalent of the N95 respirator mask used in the United States. The NDOH plans to distribute the masks to health workers on front lines in all nine of South Africa’s provinces.
As of mid-May, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had committed $13.2 million in funding, along with $8.4 million in assistance through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The US has also donated up to 1000 ventilators through USAID, with a total value of over $20 million. This brings the total US government commitment to South Africa’s COVID-19 response to over $41.6 million (R767 million).