Mkhize diversifies ministerial advisory committee to address new Covid-19 challenges, Newsline

Johannesburg – Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Monday night that he had “strengthened” the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Covid-19.

Mkhize said the World Health Organization’s Surge Team, which is currently in the country, along with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, agreed that the country had passed its surge for infections.

“We have now confirmed, both with the NICD and WHO Surge Team reports, that we are now past the surge and that our epidemiological curve has demonstrated a plateau for several weeks,” said the minister.

He said the country had re-evaluated its national response to Covid-19 and there were new challenges which would require a new approach.

As a result, many members of the new strengthened Ministerial Advisory Committee are not doctors or scientists, but are from fields including faith-based organisations, organised labour and civic society.

Mkhize said they were retaining a number of experts who were part of the clinical-biomedical ministerial advisory committee.

These are chairperson Professor Abdool-Karim, Professor Marc Mendelson, Professor Sthembiso Mkhize, Professor Rudo Mathivha and Professor Nombulelo Magula.

“The minister has seen this as an opportunity to diversify the skills set in order to ensure that government is now advised on issues that not only relate to medical science but also social sciences, behaviour and the psyche of the population.

“The MAC on Covid-19 will internally establish Technical Working Groups (TWGs) and workstreams.

“The scope and composition of the workstreams will be determined by the MAC members and revised based on the need for the revised scope. Additionally, the workstreams will co-opt Resource Individuals (RIs) who are not government officials but are skilled in specific disciplines,” the department said.

Mkhize said it was important to clarify that the MAC team for Covid-19 was not being disbanded, it was only being strengthened in line with recent developments in the country which have seen new infections and deaths plunge rapidly.

“The MAC on Covid-19 was established on March 30, 2020 with the best intentions (and) consisted of pathologists, laboratory practitioners, clinicians, public health practitioners and researchers.

“As we find ourselves in an extremely fortunate position of achieving effective transmission control, the true test lies in our ability to maintain low transmission rates.

“This requires a more holistic approach to case management, preventive measures and public policy. It therefore became necessary to strengthen the MAC on Covid-19 so that it falls in line with its mandate to advise on effective mechanisms for the prevention of transmission of Covid-19.

“Recognising that the composition of the current MAC was focused on a biomedical approach, the minister has taken a decision to augment the existing committee with various other experts from different sectors.

“In that regard, the reinforced MAC on Covid-19 consists of biomedical practitioners, clinical experts, specialists in ethics, the nursing profession, social scientists, researchers, and community leaders to advise on interventions that should be considered in responding to the epidemic and to influence the behavioural change that is required to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19,” said Mkhize.

Mkhize said the MAC team which was established in late March had done an outstanding job.

“During the course of the pandemic, three distinct MACs have been established to guide government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic :

“The MAC on Covid-19, the MAC for Coronavirus Vaccine and the Multisectoral MAC for Social Behavioural Change, co-chaired by the minister of health and the minister of sdocial Development,” he said.

“We believe that the MACs as they stand now more accurately reflect the needs of this country’s health and economic response as we look to rebuild our lives after the wreckage of the storm.

“These experts are fellow South Africans who stand ready to give of their expertise, commitment, and passion, turning ideas into action and innovation,” said Mkhize.