Ebola is a worldwide challenge and requires intervention and assistance from the global community. South Africa is arguably one of the most capable and geographically suitable countries when considering potential aid yet it has remained a small contributor to date.
The South African Department of Health sent a mobile testing laboratory to Freetown in August and contributed little over 3 million US dollars from public coffers calling on the public and private industry to provide an additional 20 million dollars. The Private sector has been slow to react and has, to date, collectively contributed less than 1 million dollars in more than a month after the Government called for assistance.
South Africa has committed to provide a 40 bed treatment facility in Freetown including qualified staff to run the unit. The Chief Director of communicable diseases at the Department of Health, Dr Frew Benson, has been quoted saying “speed is of the essence”. The South African Department of Health has already dealt with a suspected case of Ebola earlier this year when a traveler from Guinea was quarantined and tested negative for EVD.
Travel restrictions have remained in place with entry into South Africa from the affected countries severely limited. Strict monitoring occurs at the International Ports, most notably O.R Tambo International ,where fever scanners have been in use since the 2009 Flu Pandemic. To date no confirmed cases of Ebola have been reported within South African borders. The last reported case of Ebola in South Africa occurred in 1996 when a health care worker returned from Gabon carrying the disease.
Frans Viljoen, Director of the University of Pretoria’s Center for Human Rights has been critical towards the South African response to Ebola arguing that the country should be playing a major role in the efforts to stop the spread of the disease not only in West African countries but in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has noted that there is minimal risk of Ebola transmission in South Africa. The NICD considers Ebola to be a low transmission risk virus since it is not airborne and requires physical contact for transmission. Critically several global organizations have questioned the current understanding of Ebola transmission arguing evidence of short range aerosol transmissions.