FEATURE: Dashboard may help manage COVID-19 hotspots in Gauteng

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This week, we look at the dashboard that helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its impact during the lockdown. The global war against COVID-19 is central to all countries, as a third of the world remains on lockdown in attempts to conquer it. A few industries stand to benefit by regarding this crisis as an opportunity. One of these is the technology space. In this series titled, COVID Tech, SABC News’ Tshepiso Moche reports on coronavirus-related tech developments in South Africa and globally.

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Gauteng province continues to rise at an alarming rate, the provincial Department of Health, Wits University and IBM Research Africa have developed a powerful data-driven dashboard to help reduce the spread of the virus.

A screenshot of the dashboard

The dashboard will help health officials identity and attempt to lower the infection rate.

Earlier, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku said government’s National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will meet to discuss possible coronavirus interventions in the province.

Provincial Command Council gives update on COVID-19 in Gauteng:

This sentiment was echoed by Gauteng Premier David Makhura during the province’s command council on Thursday.

Makhura told the nation that the ‘COVID-19 storm’ had arrived in the province.

There are fears that Gauteng might overtake the Western Cape as South Africa’s COVID-19 epicentre.

Makhura has warned that this could necessitate the reintroduction of stricter lockdown rules.

In the video below, Makhura elaborates on his concerns:

Gauteng remains the second-highest province in terms of infections.

In addition to data visualisation, the dashboard also has a “what-if” prediction engine developed by epidemiologists and data scientists at Wits University.

Research Scientist at IBM Research Africa Sibusisiwe Makhanya says, “The engine provides predictions for each of the five alert levels for non-pharmaceutical intervention control strategies. Highly sophisticated data analytics such as these can give officials the appropriate instruments to estimate how many beds and ventilators will be needed at the peak of the wave based on a level of alert.”

On Thursday, Masuku assured the nation that the province would increase the number of beds at some Gauteng hospitals.

The dashboard is expected to help policymakers see the expected usage of hospital beds and the different kinds of health care settings using data from the province.

Makhanya says the use of the dashboard made it easier to see hotspots in March as business travellers returned from other countries.

He adds that these areas were eventually overtaken in April, as the virus spread to other districts.

“Such insights can help officials decide where health workers are needed and the type of intervention strategy,” he says.

Currently, Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni metros have the highest infections in the province.

The dashboard gives health officials a clear, timely and accurate overview aimed at preventing the next hotspot from popping up.

The country reported its first coronavirus positive case in March.

Later in that month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would go into the nationwide lockdown.

Mduduzi Mbada, Head of Policy Research and Advisory Services Unit, in the Office of Gauteng Premier David Makhura says, “We believe this pioneering initiative will help us win the fight on flattening the curve, but also to build a strong public health system and bring back the economy because of the impact of COVID-19.”

Below are predictions made by the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium:

SACovidModellingReport ShortTermProjections 12062020 Final2 (Text)