With the acute need for ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic, South Africa has become the first African country to produce its own ventilators to deploy in the fight against the virus, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel said on Friday.According to Patel, some 20,000 ventilators will be produced – with the first batch of 10,000 set to be delivered by the end of September.
The average ventilator would cost US$800, which is lower than anything found on the market, the minister said, adding that in the West the lowest cost for ventilators are pegged at US$35,000 each.
The locally-made ventilators are expected to complement the existing stock in the public and private healthcare industry, and additional purchases of ventilators from global manufacturers and donations received from other countries, he added.
The production of the ventilators comes after an intense few months during which prototypes were designed, developed and tested, while adhering to very strict technical and safety specifications, the minister said.
This led to the South African Radio Astronomy Organisation — responsible for one of the world’s largest science initiatives, the Square Kilometre Array radio-astronomy project — to put together an experienced team led by Rob Ada to manage the current process.
“Given the enormous global shortage of ventilators, a few months ago we started the National Ventilator Project, with the aim of rapidly facilitating local development and manufacturing of thousands of non-invasive ventilators,” Patel said.
He added that in a space of four months, South Africa had “gone from not producing any ventilators at all to having the first units in production.”