Good hygiene practices such as hand hygiene, use of personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment and environment – just some of the elements of infection prevention and control (IPC) – are at the forefront of COVID-19 responses worldwide. They protect both patients and health workers from infection.
From the outset, the Government of South Africa prioritized scaling up of IPC; a vital component of quality care and a key element in achieving universal health coverage (UHC). The National Department of Health, among other measures, urgently approved the ‘National IPC Strategic Framework’ and a practical manual for its implementation, which was developed with support from WHO. The timing was crucial in order to support the national control and response to COVID-19.
In low- and middle-income countries, healthcare-associated infections are double those in high-income countries. Strong IPC measures will help save lives among the 58 million people living in South Africa, especially in vulnerable populations. They have a direct impact on preventing healthcare-associated infections and the spread of COVID-19, as well as in combatting current threats posed by epidemics such as Ebola and cholera, other pandemics like influenza, and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which are increasingly major challenges to public health.
“I believe and trust that this strategic framework for IPC and the practical manual for its implementation will strengthen evidence-based infection practices at national, provincial, district and health facility levels towards combating threats posed by epidemics, pandemics and antimicrobial resistance,” said Dr Anban Pillay, Acting Director General, National Department of Health, South Africa.
This support was provided through the UHC Partnership as part of WHO’s overall COVID-19 response. The Partnership is funded by the European Union (EU), the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Irish Aid, the Government of Japan, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the UK Department for International Development and Belgium.