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Press release

Sustain the progress made during the Covid Pandemic, says SALDA

June 22, 2023

The Southern African Laboratory Diagnostics Association (SALDA) has called on industry stakeholders to sustain the progress made during the Covid-19 pandemic, when they worked together to overcome common industry challenges.

Speaking ahead of SALDA's participation in analytica Lab Africa 2023, Sarah Cohen, Executive officer of SALDA, said stakeholders had collaborated to overcome challenges and learned valuable lessons during the pandemic.

“SALDA members played a huge role during Covid –our members were bringing in equipment test kits and components, and there were a lot of barriers at the time. Those included border restrictions, pricing, and securing approval for supply and distribution from the Regulator. At the same time, there were some companies who were not SALDA members ‘going through the back door’. For us, the laboratory validation and approval steps are crucial, but they can slow processes down,” she said.

“Now that we have gone back to focusing on other infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases, there are lessons learned during Covid that we are hoping to apply. We also continue to work closely with other industry associations like the South African Medtech Association (SAMED), Manufacturing of Medical Devices Association of South Africa (MDMSA), South African Clinical Research Association (SACRA), South African Medical Laboratory Technology Association of SA (SMLTSA), African Society of Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), South African Health Product Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), National Laboratory Association (NLA), and private pathology labs such as Ampath, Lancet and Pathcare.”

Cohen believes that closer collaboration is unlocking new opportunities for the sector in South Africa. “We have opened up a lot of technical expertise and infrastructure, and opportunities to seek funding for more clinical research in South Africa. After the challenges experienced during Covid, we identified the need for localisation. Hand in hand with organisations like the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the Departments of Trade and Innovation; Science and Technology, we are focusing on enabling the production of local products and equipment. A great coup for the local industry was the recent launch of the locally produced Covid-19 testing kits by Medical Diagnostech (Pty) Ltd enabled by the SAMRC, Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). Another significant project is the mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub at Afrigen in Cape Town,” she said.

Cohen also pointed to progress made at Port Health during the pandemic. “During the pandemic, our products were being detained due to concerns around the spread of the virus. We are fortunate that SAHPRA has now placed their officials at all the Port Health branches around the country to assist us with release of healthcare products. We also struggle as an industry to import products with animal and human components, because this requires permits from the Department of Health as well as the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development respectively, which is sometimes a lengthy process and can cause delays.”

Cohen added that the closer ties built in the healthcare industry during the pandemic could help support the planned National Health Insurance. “Because we work with both public and private enterprise, we hope both entities will collaborate in this, and not abandon the lessons we learned during Covid,” she said.

Collaboration and opportunities will be in the spotlight at the upcoming analytica Lab Africa 2023 to be held from 5-7 July at the Gallagher Convention Centre. analytica Lab Africa is part of Messe Muenchen’s worldwide network of exhibitions and the only trade fair for laboratory technology, analysis, biotechnology and diagnostics in South Africa. Over 230 leading brands are set to participate in the upcoming analytica Lab Africa 2023, giving visitors an update on the latest trends and innovations in the world of lab technology, diagnostics and analysis solutions. Analytica Lab Africa will be co-located with IFAT Africa, the leading water & waste, recycling and environmental technologies trade show.

To learn more and register, please visit: mmiconnectafrica.com/ala-2023/visitor/registration