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The World Federation for Mental Health appeals to all countries and their governments to ensure that national mental health plans are designed to manage the mental health consequences of the global coronavirus health emergency.

Mental health is a precious commodity and a national asset and should be prioritised in the same way as physical health.

Many countries are currently experiencing the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The situation has become dire as we search for a vaccine to prevent more infections and stop the loss of thousands of lives. In many affected countries all health care services are currently subjected to enormous stress and extraordinary challenges while mental health and psychosocial support needs of people ‒ of those already using services as well as citizens experiencing insurmountable levels of stress ‒ continue to rise. Everyone is affected and no-one escapes the impact on our mental health professionals working at the coalface of providing care yet suffering in silence.

We know that “There is no health without mental health”, as declared by the World Health Organization many years ago. The World Federation for Mental Health envisions a world in which mental health is a reality for all people and where public policies and programmes reflect the crucial importance of mental health in the lives of individuals. The mission of the World Federation for Mental Health is to promote the advancement of mental health awareness, prevention of mental disorders, advocacy, and best practice recovery-focused interventions worldwide.

It is undisputed that the current COVID-19 emergency will have long-lasting consequences and effects on the mental health of all people, affecting the general population with astonishingly heightened stress. On the other hand, impoverishment of services, their reduction and mergers, and the shortage of staff that are already present due to the economic crisis place mental health at the bottom of the list of health priorities.

The mental health of those with pre-existing conditions and disorders before the pandemic is of great concern. They are some of the most vulnerable people to the contagion and may lack access to proper information and medical care. Their human rights, safety, protection, and even their environment, are at risk. More than ever, they could be forgotten, neglected and exposed to additional suffering because of the shortage of mental health services operating within communities. Cutting funds, diverting staff to other services, dedicating existing psychiatric facilities to urgent functions to the care of the outbreak are some of the factors that cause serious concern. There are some examples of psychiatric hospital units that have been converted into COVID-19 departments while there is severe and limited access to community mental health centres and facilities that in some areas have been closed. Outpatient services are restricted to emergencies only, limiting the offer of services. Few mobile teams are still operating in communities to assist people with psychosocial needs and social priorities. Many residential facilities, especially those for more disabled and fragile people, are experiencing outbreaks affecting both staff and residents. In many countries, there is little, if any opportunity, for self-isolation by infected persons in these facilities due to limited space.

There is a severe shortage of rehabilitation interventions, socialization activities and daycare centres. Personal support, home and educational assistance services, mainly carried out by NGOs, have slowed down or stopped completely in the absence of innovative remote mental health services.

As an immediate consequence, certain people with mental disorders who need “closer” care are the most affected by “physical distancing”. An increase in demand for involuntary treatments is beginning to surface in many areas.

Families who have now become the primary carers of their relative with severe mental illness battle to cope without the necessary support that may have ordinarily been offered such as respite care, counselling, guidance and support. Many people are alone and helpless or find themselves living in poverty and/or highly congested communities where self-isolation or lockdown is virtually impossible thus increasing their exposure to the virus. Large populations of homeless people are lost as many of their natural support systems are no longer available.

The social impact of the virus on low and middle-income countries (LMIC), where mental health care provision is already limited, should be a concern. People with severe mental illness who live in places such as mental hospitals, nursing homes, halfway homes, social care homes, correctional facilities and other institutions are at risk, as these places become more unsafe and provide less protection against contracting the virus. They are at higher risk as many are on medication requiring monitoring and may already be suffering from other physical conditions, and those with cognitive disabilities do not know how to avoid infection or its spread as the information has not been interpreted in Easy to Read or verbally. Another group that is of concern would be the socially disadvantaged in the broader sense, and the migrant populations living in special centres and camps. They need psychosocial support and health protection as well as a response to their primary needs. Measures that are normally activated during disasters such as feeding camps, work for food, and food relief (food parcels) are not necessarily made available in all countries during the COVID-19 lockdown. We have heard narratives from individuals suffering due to a lack of access to food saying that they will die from hunger before they die from the virus.

We therefore urgently call for proactive actions and measures to address the mental health, physical health as well as the social needs of all during this crisis. We believe it is essential for all countries, especially those who are fighting the hardest consequences of the pandemic, not only to focus on the medical aspects of the COVID-19 but also to urgently prioritise all psychosocial and economic needs and to address this with all the intelligence, compassion and skills at their disposal. We call for an immediate implementation and operational mental health emergency plan. We believe it is the government's responsibility to transmit centralized basic indications to services and to the general population. Even before the current pandemic occurred, the World Health Organization, in the current draft for the renewed Global Action Plan (2020-2030), added a specific objective concerning “Mental health in humanitarian emergencies”. Among the actions of the new WHO action plan, mental health is required to be placed on national emergency committees.

In particular, countries are asked to apply the following actions:

“During emergencies, ensure coordination with partners on the application of the Sphere Project’s minimum standard on mental health and the guidelines mentioned above (IASC);

After acute emergencies, build or rebuild sustainable community-based mental health systems to address the long-term increase in mental disorders in emergency-affected populations.”

Governments are expected to provide guidance and technical advice during these times and can call on international stakeholder organizations such as the World Federation for Mental Health and the World Health Organization about ways to manage and support their existing mental health systems and services to provide effective mental health protection for their population.

In line with our values and principles, some priorities are listed emerging from the debates, discussions and best practice interventions at national and international levels on which significant consensus and agreement have been reached, namely to:

1. Adopt a "Whole of Society approach", as stated in the Interim Briefing Note Addressing Mental Health and Psychosocial Aspects of COVID-19 Outbreak (developed by the IASC’s Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support), that involves and coordinates all existing components and resources for mental health and psychosocial support systems, mapping, providing guidance and basic training;

2. Provide guidance on mental health and psychosocial support for health workers, managers of health facilities, caregivers looking after children, older adults, people in isolation and members of the public more generally;

3. Engage communities: help the general population to cope with distress, anxiety, uncertainty, sadness and grief caused by the pandemic; balance and integrate professional interventions with community involvement in terms of solidarity and caring actions; enhancing the general sense of belonging to a community;

4. Provide people with mental health needs with the same quality of information regarding COVID-19 awareness and prevention given to all citizens, wherever they are, at home or in an institution. They have the same need for information and would require additional support should they be infected;

5. Strengthen Primary Care roles to safeguard and guarantee health prevention, healthcare responses with the best possible care pathways, including mental health;

6. Ensure psychiatric care and psychosocial support for people with severe mental illness who are at risk of neglect as well as infection;

7. Strengthen community-based interventions, through many forms of home support and care, with a multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach, alongside the highest level of caution and protection of both mental health user and staff;

8. Pool resources available for mental health support and overcome fragmentation, foster inter-sectoral referral pathways in public mental health care and the social services third sector alliance, for a comprehensive response to the needs of care and assistance;

9. Involve stakeholder organizations, especially those related to people with lived experience and carers, in gathering emerging needs, in defining essential services and actions, and in all steps of coordination and decision-making process;

10. Protect people with severe mental illness living in institutions, hospitals, prisons, shelters, nursing homes, group homes and other special facilities ensuring overall care and prevention of COVID-19 infections, while avoiding human rights violations; create alternative lockdown accommodation if facilities are full;

11. Organize humanitarian aid and response to basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, medication) for all people affected and living in poverty and, in particular, persons with mental illness who are homeless, unemployed and socially deprived of these basic needs;

12. Support the volunteer sector, non-profit organizations, social enterprises and cooperatives that are suffering particularly from the closure of their programmes and services, through direct economic interventions and special projects;

13. Support families who alone cannot act as social safety nets for the emergency except for very short periods, in the absence of other supports, and actively monitor daily life conditions to prevent domestic violence on women, children and disabled family members;

14. Build a system of services via Internet or telephone to reach out to people, communicate and interact with them to retain contact, as suggested in e-mental health experiences; access to teletherapy for outpatients already engaged in care to avoid loss of continuity and follow-up and prevent relapses;

15. Create a network of local aid programmes for first contact, active listening and support, as offered by diverse entities, volunteers or even private specialists, by coherently organizing them through the establishment of national toll-free numbers.

Recommended essential actions are as follows:

 Provide nationwide coordinated mental health services and collaboration with local decision-makers and all stakeholders;

 Prepare and train mental health staff in the management of emergency and especially preventive measures;

 Prioritize protection to mental health service users and staff during their interaction (e.g.use of PPE2, physical distancing, self-isolation);

 Ensure that information on pandemic and preventative measures to mental health care users are properly addressed and received; develop Easy to Read pamphlets that explain COVID-19 awareness and prevention information in simple and understandable symbols and basic words for persons with cognitive disabilities and those with low literacy;

 Limit the use of communal spaces in service locations;

 Accommodate working from home, tele and videoconferencing, tele and video counselling and support groups, all forms of tele-healthcare and distance communication either with clients or with providers and other partners, and remote teams to ensure programmatic activities from phone to the home using affordable telephone Apps capabilities;

 Guarantee that basic mental health services, e.g. medication and psychosocial support are provided;

 Use various telephone Apps to facilitate grapevine communication or support groups to facilitate contact, support and care for service users in PSR programmes or parents/carers including staff engaged in service delivery;

 Shield at-risk patients with co-morbidity;

 Ensure quick assessment of people in crisis and provide alternatives to admissions as much as possible;

 Minimize involuntary treatments and hospitalizations to reduce exposure to risk, through preventive and alternative programs, taking into account ethical considerations;

 Support staff in supported housing and residential facilities in the interpretation of safety rules for themselves and the residents;

 Ensure that during a lockdown, activities and programs continue within the residential or semi-residential facilities using creative innovative measures;

 Ensure pathways of mental health users in the mainstream health care to fulfill the right to physical and mental health, limit designated services for those who are COVID-positive, and ensure that all other technologies are used to facilitate contact and support;

 Provide (tele-) forums for staff and clients to share experiences locally and nationally and involve all private providers.

It should be taken into consideration that on the one hand it is presumed that the outbreak will last a long time, and on the other that the real impact on mental health will occur mainly with the loosening of the current grip and with the beginning of the recovery of a “normal” life. People will encounter the consequences of human and economic losses together with depressive and anger feelings, post-traumatic symptoms and other conditions.

We believe that through the implementation of an extraordinary emergency plan, the system of mental health services must and can continue, requiring leadership and flexibility, and using proactive and innovative interventions.

On Behalf of the World Federation for Mental Health Board

Dr Ingrid Daniels, President, WFMH

Dr Roberto Mezzina, Vice President (Europe), WFMH

Poor mental health costs the world economy approximately US $2.5 trillion, yet across the globe, less than 2% of health budgets are spent on mental health. This is according to a new report titled Return on the Individual (ROI) launched by the Speak Your Mind campaign on 17th April 2020. The Speak Your Mind campaign (a nationally driven, global mental health campaign) advocates for ending the silence around mental health to put pressure on governments to invest in, educate and empower people in order to provide them with support and the resources for their mental health. The report estimates that around 20 percent of the world’s working population suffers from some form of mental health illness at any given time, with depression and anxiety being the common mental disorders, prevalent across demographics. It further estimates that we lose 12 billion productive days on a yearly basis as a result of depression and anxiety alone. In South Africa, like in most low and middle-income countries, mental health remains under-funded, with stigma against those who suffer from mental illness being a stumbling block. The World Health Organisation’s Mental Health Atlas for 2017 shows that the country has a severe shortage of mental health professionals as well as community-based mental health outpatient facilities.

Estimates from 2017 show 284 million people are living with anxiety and 265 million with depression. An estimated 50 million people are living with dementia, and this number is projected to triple by 2050 – with 10 million new cases each year. In more severe cases, conditions such as these can lead to suicide, which claims the lives of close to 800,000 people every year and is attempted by many more.

South Africa’s National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013-2020 correctly points out that mental health problems have serious economic and social costs as a result of a myriad of issues including reduced productivity and loss of income. The impact of untreated mental illness was found to be more costly on the country’s economy than to treat it. Data from South Africa’s first nationally representative survey of mental disorders in 2002 found that “lost earnings among adults with severe mental illness during the previous 12 months amounted to R28.8 billion” . Yet expenditure on mental health is one of the areas in the country that is ripe for reform, with proper alignment needed to ensure that mental health features in national health and social development priorities.

The ROI report states that between 76 and 85 percent of people with mental illness receive no treatment in low and middle-income countries. The latest available data shows that only 5% of the national health budget goes towards mental health services, while there is no data on the spend of the Department of Social Development on mental health services aside from the disability grant. There are still serious challenges with unequal allocations of resources at a provincial level, making early interventions almost impossible for many people. The ROI report, which was conceived at a global meeting of mental health campaigners in 2019, says the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need to invest in mental health even more urgent. With most countries under lockdown with severe restrictions on normal habits, there are now more people working at least part-time from home as a result of short-term responses by governments and businesses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ROI report states the current international emergency “has led to an increase in conversations about employee mental health among employers across all sectors as they work to maintain and strengthen employee morale and productivity in times of uncertainty. Moreover, reports predicting a huge impact on the global economy from COVID-19 is causing further concern - for governments, companies and individuals. Mental ill-health typically rises during an economic recession.” Statistics from the ROI and data from the National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013-2020, are proof that mental health and economic performance interlink. The COVID-19’s threat to long-term mental well-being, coupled with the fact that as many as 20 percent of the world’s working population has some form of mental health condition at any given time, means governments should act swiftly in making mental healthcare a priority.

The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) commends the South African government on developing and adopting the National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013-2020, which promised improved mental health for all in South Africa by 2020 and planned adoption of the National Health Insurance (NHI). However, there is no compelling evidence showing that the government has succeeded in scaling up primary mental health services which include community-based care, Primary Health Care, and district hospital-level care. Including mental health in the NHI implementation provides ample opportunity for mental health service scale-up to be embedded in the country’s future health service delivery strategy .

In light of the progress made to date and more importantly the government efforts in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, SAFMH would like to urge the government now more than ever to further prioritise and invest in mental health and ensure that mental health is integrated into wider COVID-19 response efforts. In the first report of its kind, ROI reveals the wider social and business case for investing in mental health. Instead of looking at traditional return on investment in mental health, measured in financial terms, the report puts the human being at the centre and highlights the wider Return on the Individual that can’t be easily quantified. This return is not only beneficial for businesses and the overall economy, but also for physical health outcomes, maternal and child health, communities, workplaces, family wellbeing, and society as a whole. The full report can be found here.

For enquiries:

Masutane Modjadji (Project Leader – Info & Awareness, SAFMH)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

011 781 1852

Please note that, until further notice, SAFMH will only be available for phone interviews and email enquiries

SAFMH gathers information to provide an understanding of challenges that are identified within the mental health and wider disability sectors in South Africa. Gathering this information helps SAFMH to develop knowledge about important developments in the mental health, disability and non-governmental organisation (NGO) sectors in South Africa.

SAFMH has often received requests from students and professionals looking to volunteer within the mental health sector, in areas specific to their qualifications (this includes psychology, occupational therapy, and social work).

SAFMH, therefore, conducted an information-gathering exercise within the NGO sector in Gauteng during December 2019 and February 2020 to assess whether and/or how volunteers are being recruited and utilised within these organisations. Questions that were answered were a) whether NGOs were making use of volunteers, b) if so, what selection criteria they were using, and c) what these volunteers were being tasked with.

SAFMH believes that this information will help shed light on the nature of volunteering within Gauteng. SAFMH aims to also use the data obtained from this information-gathering exercise to broaden the exercise out to other organisations in Gauteng and other provinces to try and develop a detailed overview of volunteering trends across South Africa.

From the findings, SAFMH gathered that NGOs require persons who are qualified and often have a set number of placements available per year, limiting the number of volunteers they can take. Activities that volunteers can partake in also limits the number of placements available. It seems to work best when NGOs have partnerships in place with colleges and universities so they know they occasionally have students that can volunteer and the students would have supervision available from their institutions. A few NGOs might welcome those who are passionate about their work and are not necessarily qualified.

It is interesting that none of the organisations mentioned mental health care users (MHCUs) as volunteers in NGOs. SAFMH often receive requests from MHCUs who wish to give their time and expertise as volunteers but this proves to be challenging as NGOs generally prefer persons with skills and qualifications instead of life experience.

It is important that volunteers sell themselves to an organisation to present themselves as professional persons. SAFMH has noted that some prospective volunteers send an email with one sentence and no résumé attached, which is not ideal. Prospective volunteers should thus be informed that they should clearly motivate why they want to volunteer when first communicating with NGOs and always attach a résumé. Prospective volunteers need to view a potential volunteering opportunity equally to an employment opportunity.

SAMFH will, in the year 2020 to 2021 extend the information gathering exercise to other provinces to determine whether different results will be obtained and also approach more organisations in Gauteng.

SAFMH wishes to advise NGOs to build relationships with universities and colleges to have students come to their facilities to volunteer because in that way the students do get supervision from their schools and they also get to gain experience.

Written by: Kamogelo Sefanyetso, Project Leader: Mental Health Support

The International Labour Organisation: To advance social justice and meaningfully include persons with disabilities, we need to be bold. We need to be innovative. And we must act together - during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

 The COVID-19 crisis is new. It is requiring us all to act, interact and communicate in different ways than we are used to. However, the inequalities exacerbating COVID-19’s impact on persons with disabilities are not new. The risk in the response to the current crisis is that persons with disabilities will be left behind once again. The good news is that we already know what works. Fundamentally, we need social justice, effective inclusion, equality of opportunities and decent work.

Five Key Points 

1) Support solutions that promote equality

For example, work-from-home policies must ensure that workers with disabilities have appropriate adjustments at home, as they should have in their regular workplace. Other measures taken in response to COVID-19, such as self-isolation, need to take into account the particular situation of persons with disabilities, including that some may need personal assistance. 

2) Ensure communication is accessible and disability-inclusive

All public health, education and work-related communication on COVID-19, including on telework arrangements, must be accessible to persons with disabilities, including through the use of sign language, subtitles and accessible websites. Communication should also address the particular situation of persons with disabilities. 

3) Provide adequate social protection

Social protection is essential for persons with disabilities to cover the extra costs related to disability, which may increase due to the impact of the crisis and lead to a disruption of their support system. Persons with disabilities, especially women with disabilities, already experience higher rates of unemployment; now, more than ever, gender-responsive social protection measures will have to be designed in a way that supports persons with disabilities to enter, remain and progress in the labour market. 

4) Ensure labour rights now, labour rights always

At the core of the disability rights movement and the labour rights movement, is social dialogue and participation. This is needed more than ever during the current crisis. A multiplicity of views - from governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations and organizations of persons with disabilities - brings a multiplicity of solutions. For this to happen, the application of international labour standards and other human rights instruments, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is essential.

5) Change the narrative

Fundamental to all these points is including persons with disabilities as co-creators of COVID-19 responses, as champions and users, not as victims. All crises bring opportunities, and the opportunity of the moment is to make inclusion of all previously marginalized groups - including persons with disabilities - a central element of all responses. By building on our experience with disability inclusion and deepening partnerships, we can support a sustainable and inclusive response to COVID-19.

This article was produced by the International Labour Organization.

This week, South Africa would have seen the end of its initial three-week nationwide lockdown, which was implemented by government as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic. However, two weeks have been added to the initial three weeks as concerns continue to grow about the spread of the virus across South African communities.

The past 21 days have been strenuous, both mentally and physically, for many South Africans, the majority of whom have done their best to adhere to the strict conditions of the lockdown. Already in the early days of the lockdown, most companies were expressing loss of revenue that would impact on their ability to pay salaries going forward, despite temporary relief measures in place for businesses. No doubt that this, along with challenges related to limited liberties, are weighing heavily on the mental health of individuals who don’t know what possible outcome awaits them, should the restrictions be lifted at the end of April.

According to the United Nation (UN)’s brief on 27 March 2020, medical experts have warned that it is just a matter of time before the African continent sees a massive increase in cases. The UN cautioned that the continent needed protection from the spread of COVID-19, which would bear disastrous consequences to human life “and unprecedented social and economic damage”. The UN’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, told member countries that developing countries faced the greatest long-term risk and urged the organisation to “play a key role in coordinating multilateral efforts not only to fight the outbreak but also to mitigate the subsequent economic blow”. Local authorities have also warned that growth in the number of cases in South Africa is inevitable, with an expectation that this will peak when current lockdown measures are eventually lifted. On 13 April 2020, the National Department of Health (NDOH) made it clear that while the government’s interventions and the lockdown have slowed the spread of the virus and bought us time, “the country cannot escape the worst of this epidemic”. The forecasts into how the virus might spread and behave come with encouragement for individuals to adopt new habits for hygiene and when engaging with fellow human beings in the future. The next two weeks should serve as a reflection of what habits we need to adjust to and what habits to leave behind.

All this is happening during a time when individuals are isolating, experiencing strict movement restrictions and barely coping with physical distancing. Approximately three weeks ago, when the South African government announced the 21-day lockdown, people expressed feelings of uncertainty and mental anxiety. It is, therefore, not a surprise that the two-week extension announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the 8th of April 2020 - without any grace period - has been received with mixed feelings. The president’s announcement was followed by an elaborate outline of the progress the country has made since the initial lockdown that started on the 27th of March 2020 and of measures in place to help soften the harsh impact this extension will have on individuals and the economy.

According to an article published in the JAMA Internal Medicine on 10 April 2020, steps to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, such as restricting usual day-to-day behavioural patterns and functioning of the population, while necessary, will undoubtedly have consequences for mental health and well-being in both the short and long term. The authors of the article have added that such consequences should not be taken lightly and have advised that immediate efforts aimed at prevention and direct intervention are needed to address the impact on population-level mental health.

As we reflect on the current lockdown extension, we are reminded that mental health care users’ (MHCUs) vulnerability places them among those who are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) would like to remind MHCUs to remember that mental healthcare remains an essential service during the lockdown. It is true that we all have a responsibility to adhere to the lockdown regulations to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19, and staying at home aids precisely with this. However, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on 13th April 2020 urged countries to “ensure that where stay-at-home measures are used, they must not be at the expense of human rights”.

Since the start of the lockdown, SAFMH has received messages of distress from MHCUs who have found themselves stranded in situations that are compromising their mental well-being, while others have been seeking mental healthcare services they can access. SAFMH cannot stress enough the importance of access to medication for MHCUs to avoid relapses and a deterioration in the mental health wellbeing during this time. The WHO (2020) confirmed that the pandemic’s impact on public health, as well as its socio-economic impacts, have “disproportionately affected the vulnerable” as many populations - especially in developing countries - were already experiencing a lack of access to essential health services prior to the pandemic.

According to the President of SAFMH, Doctor Lochandra Naidoo, “coping with panic and claustrophobia and poor tolerance is as much of a challenge as the lockdown extension itself. Peoples' safety, health and family are threatened. These fears spread as rapidly as the virus. We must avoid information overload, prepare for our fears without overestimation, seek support, keep active and eat healthy, while we help others.”

Dr Naidoo urged South Africans to stay safely at home and comply with all the COVID-19 and lockdown regulations. The heads of mental health organisations have also added that mental health resilience must be encouraged during this period, while also reminding citizens that there is life after COVID-19.

President Ramaphosa, in his national address, promised that government will observe the human rights of all people during this time. However, even when the lockdown is eventually lifted, there is no doubt that the virus that has already infected 1.7 million people across the world (according to WHO data) will forever change our daily habits and how we engage with people around us. As people across the globe prepare for life after the lockdown, WHO on the 14th April 2020 published its updated strategic advice for countries to take into consideration when lifting the restrictions. The advice covers individuals, communities, governments and companies’ approach in stopping the COVID-19:

Individuals - WHO advises people to make hand washing, social distancing, covering their mouths when sneezing or coughing, isolating themselves when sick, as some of the behaviours they should adopt to protect themselves and others.

Communities - Members of communities should be empowered to make sure service and aid responses are based on the feedback communities provide on their experiences and are based on local contexts. According to WHO (2020), critical measures to stop COVID-19 can only happen with the support of affected communities.

Governments - Must provide leadership, coordinate a multi-party response and ensure that the message of any response reaches individuals and communities “through communication, education, engagement, capacity building and support”. At the same time, governments should ensure it strengthens the capacity to scale up the public health system to “find and test, isolate, and care for confirmed cases, and identify, traces, quarantine and support contacts”. On top of providing support to the health system for better patient care for those infected with COVID-19, governments should also maintain other essential health and social services for all.

Private companies - On top of maintaining a stable food chain and other essential services, WHO says “private companies can provide expertise and innovation to scale and sustain the response, most notably through the production and equitable distribution of laboratory diagnostics, personal protective equipment, ventilators, medical oxygen and other essential medical equipment at fair prices, and the research and development”.


Fitch Ratings (2020). Fitch Downgrades South Africa to 'BB'; Outlook Negative. Accessed at

Fin24 (2020).Coronavirus | SA business alliance expects 1 million job losses, economy to contract by 10%. Accessed at

Galea S, Merchant RM, Lurie N (2020). The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 and Physical Distancing: The Need for Prevention and Early Intervention. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1562

National Department of Health (2020). SA’s Covid-19 epidemic: Trends & Next steps. Accessed at

The Presidency (2020). Message by President Cyril Ramaphosa on COVID-19 pandemic. Accessed at

United Nations (2020). Defending Africa from COVID-19; UN and Governments brace for virus spread. Accessed at

United Nations (2020). Rapid Suppression of COVID-19 Transmission ‘Must Be Our Common Strategy’, Secretary-General Stresses in Virtual Briefing to Member States Accessed at

World Health Organisation (2020). COVID‑19 Strategy update 13 April 2020. Accessed at

World Health Organisation (2020).WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 13 April 2020. Accessed at

For enquiries:

Masutane Modjadji

(Project Leader – Info & Awareness, SAFMH)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

011 781 1852

Please note that, until further notice, SAFMH will only be available for phone interviews and email enquiries

Please visit the COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal at

Alternatively contact the 

Emergency Hotline: 0800 029 999 or the

WhatsApp Support Line: 0600 123456