SA lifts medical export ban
08 April 2020 | Disasters
South Africa has reversed its decision to block exports of vital medicines and medical equipment needed in the fight against the coronavirus.
The ban, announced on 27 March, was lifted after high-level diplomatic intervention by Namibia.
Dr Bernhard Haufiku, the national coordinator of Namibia's coronavirus task force, says the minister of international relations, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, held urgent talks on the issue with her counterparts in South Africa.
The products that were affected by the ban included hand sanitisers, face masks, oxygen masks and hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that has shown promise in treating seriously ill coronavirus patients.
“Namibia is now excluded from these export restrictions. We just have to indicate what we need and South Africa will approve export permits,” Haufiku said yesterday.
He said the matter was immediately taken up with health minister Kalumbi Shangula, and they decided to involve the ministry of international relations.
Calle Schlettwein, the new minister of agriculture, sharply criticised the South African ban in a tweet on Monday, describing it as “devoid of compassion and solidarity”.
Meanwhile, the managing director of Geka Pharma Willie van Wyk says the pharmaceutical wholesaler has increased its stock from six to about 11 weeks' supply to ensure that Namibian pharmacies, hospitals and medical practices do not run out of essential medicines.
Van Wyk says South Africa's new export permit system will cause delays of about two weeks but it should not affect the availability of medicine in Namibia.
He says panic buying because of the coronavirus pandemic has placed great strain on medicine suppliers. Moreover, there is an international shortage of certain pharmaceuticals such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which are used to treat malaria and autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Indications that these medicines may help coronavirus patients have caused a sharp increase in demand.