A team of Rhodes University scientists has started producing hand sanitiser, to urgently address the shortage in the province. Handwashing and, in the absence of a reliable water supply hand sanitiser, is an important way to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and the team set up a production laboratory to help address the current nationwide shortage. Meanwhile, the University’s Housekeeping division made protective masks for workers at the frontline of managing the crisis.
Led by Professor Rod Walker, a registered pharmacist with the South African Pharmacy Council, the production of sanitiser began on Friday, 20 March 2020 when the University’s suppliers of sanitiser were not able to meet its demand.
“We made the first batch for the University’s central cleaning services and made two batches for a local non-profit organisation, Ubunye Foundation,” said Walker.
The team, which includes postgraduate students in the Sterile Products Laboratory in the Faculty of Pharmacy, aims to produce between 300 and 450 litres a day. The sanitisers are made strictly according to the World Health Organisation guidelines.
“We give each product a batch number for traceability purposes and we keep samples of each batch so that if any fault is found, we can easily check against the sample. Each bottle is labelled with a list of excipients, in case any person is sensitive or allergic to any of them,” Walker added.
Dean of Pharmacy and Head of the Pharmaceutics Department, Associate Professor Sandile Khamanga, said it was fitting that Rhodes University assists in the fight against the spread of Covid-19, as it has the facilities and expertise to do so.
The Makhanda based South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) donated 1250 litres of ethanol to the project in support of this initiative. SAIAB Managing Director Angus Paterson said they had been producing their own sanitisers, and when they heard Rhodes University was assisting the Province, they wanted to assist.
“As soon as we heard, we asked for clearance from the South African Revenue Service (SARS), as ethanol is a rebate item. They were very efficient in giving us the go ahead within an hour. In this way are responding to the President’s call of Thuma Mina,” he said.
Rhodes University, working closely with a number of partners including the Eastern Cape Provincial government and the Makhanda business community has put out a call for support in terms of the materials required to produce and package the sanitisers and any other support necessary during this time of crisis – including ethanol and spray bottles.
The Rhodes University housekeeping team is also making facemasks for hospitals and clinics in Makhanda. Conference Manager and supervisor of the team, Charmaine Avery, said they had started making mask on Wednesday.
“This is our commitment to our community and the civil servants who will be in the frontline during this Lockdown,” Avery said. “We need to make sure that they are safe. We will leave them at our Campus Protection Unit for clinics, hospitals, the army and police to come and collect.”