Science minister wants hub to study pandemics as ‘medical, social and political phenomena’
South Africa’s higher education and science minister has declared that a dedicated national pandemic research centre is one of his personal goals.
“One of my goals in this portfolio […] is to work towards a centre for the study of pandemics in South Africa,” Blade Nzimande told a 3 March news conference called to highlight new findings related to the locally common Covid-19 variant, 501Y.V2.
The centre will not be limited to medical aspects of pandemic science, he said: “What I’m looking at is setting up a multi-disciplinary centre because pandemics are a medical, social, and even political phenomenon.”
Nzimande said that he has already started “informal engagements” with Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University to look into the possibility of involving the institution in the centre’s creation.
He also hinted that the proposed University of Science and Innovation to be based in Ekurhuleni—an initiative announced in president Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2020 state of the nation address—could be part of these plans. He said one of that university’s first tasks will be the study of pandemics. Nzimande said the government will release a feasibility study for the new university in April.