Space data essential to help plan national response to Covid-19

7th April 2020

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) has committed itself to using its expertise and capabilities, and the expertise and capabilities of the wider national space sector, to help the country’s decision-makers combat the Covid-19 pandemic. A major mission of Sansa is the acquisition, dissemination and distribution of space-based data and information to support decision-making. Another mission is the coordination of the national space sector.

“Government’s historical investment in science, technology and innovation can now be harnessed for a national response to a global pandemic, which brings to the fore the importance of these investments for addressing our socioeconomic-environmental challenges and where Sansa is one of many such entities that is able to respond to the current crisis,” highlights Sansa CEO Dr Val Munsami. The agency intends to supply national decision-makers with space-based information and tools, to allow them to make evidence-based decisions in the campaign against the disease.

Sansa will collect this space-based spatial information and data from both other government agencies and from its private-sector partners. In turn, it will supply such data to those government institutions responsible for countering the pandemic, as well as to the Department of Science and Innovation’s Covid-19 research platform.

Determining and understanding the spatial spread of the disease will be essential in fighting it. This will require the mapping of population density and spread, at the household level. Also necessary will be the mapping of the movement patterns of people and the identification of communities at risk, especially in rural areas. Such information will help with, among other things, the deployment of medical workers, water and sanitation services and public security personnel.

To these end, Sansa and the wider South African space sector could provide a number of information products and tools. One such was origin-to-destination analysis of vehicle traffic movement, along the country’s main routes, in the period up to and just after the start of the national lockdown. This would establish movements between urban and rural areas and so allow identification of possible infection hotspots.

Another such capability is the provision of human settlement information “layers”, including rural and urban density maps, to assist with the determination of the proper deployment of resources. Such datasets will also assist with the Covid-19 home visits programme and the delivery of required services (particularly in informal settlements and rural areas) because they can provide location information right down to household level.

The space sector can furthermore monitor air quality changes across the country, taking place because of the lockdown. And Sansa will launch a call for proposals from government organisations, science councils and the private sector, to demonstrate services that will help contain the spread of the pandemic.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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