Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said his department had invested over R68 million towards COVID-19 research in the country.
Nzimande was briefing the nation on Monday on his department’s plans for the re-opening of higher education institutions amid the resurgence of COVID-19 infections.
The minister said funds had been approved to support COVID-19 research and development in areas including diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
“The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has also funded local clinical trials and its facilities continue to track the evolution/mutation of SARS-CoV-2 lineages. Scientists from the DSI funded KRISP and have been meeting with the world’s top scientists every two weeks to discuss the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 lineages.”
Nzimande has urged South Africans to listen to experts on the science around the COVID-19 vaccine and ignore disinformation that has been doing the rounds.
He slammed disinformation around COVID-19 vaccines including the use of 5G.
“Vaccines go through rigorous testing and this thing that 5G is bringing COVID-19 is not true. Many other stories that are being told about COVID-19, are not true. We urge our people to listen to scientists. We know that sometimes when we’re under pressure and we’re faced with a killing virus, all sorts of stories start emerging.”
Nzimande added his department was fully behind efforts to fund research into possible COVID-19 vaccines in South Africa.
He said the demand for an effective national COVID-19 vaccination plan and the threat of future pandemics had thrust the country’s ability to develop and manufacture vaccines locally into the spotlight.
“We are determined to use this crisis as an opportunity to strengthen our local capacity for production.”
The department is currently funding two studies in the area of vaccines amounting to nearly R7 million.
“The department is co-finding a study led by Wits University aimed at assessing the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Nzimande said scientists continue to work with their international counterparts to ensure that knowledge was pooled in order to bring COVID-19 under control in the country.