Johannesburg, Jul 20 (PTI) South African medical authorities have warned people against consuming controlled substances and medicines looted during the recent week-long violence and looting, saying the drugs may endanger their health if taken without the supervision of experts.
Protests started on July 7 after the imprisonment of former South African president Jacob Zuma, but rapidly devolved into unprecedented massive looting and arson across the country.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), Health Professions Council of South Africa, Office of Health Standards Compliance, South African Nursing Council, South African Pharmacy Council, and the Department of Health, in a joint statement, also expressed concerns about the impact of the looting and violence on the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.
“We fear that the availability of controlled substances and medicines which have been looted or stolen in the affected communities may endanger the health of community members who may consume these without the supervision and guidance of health care professionals,” they stated in the statement.
“We would like to urge the public to not utilise any medicines that are not accessed through authorised health care institutions. You may report such illegal activity to SAHPRA or to law enforcement agencies,” the statement said.
The authorities said the impact of the destruction on public health was already being felt in communities, with members of the community deprived of health care, chronic patients unable to access medicines, and COVID-19 vaccine sites and the vaccines themselves being lost to destruction and looting.
Zuma started a 15-month sentence after the country’s apex Constitutional Court found him guilty of contempt of court because he refused to return to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, where he has been repeatedly accused of involvement in corruption by witnesses.
President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier said the actions of the past week were intended to cripple the economy, cause social instability and severely weaken – or even dislodge – the democratic state.
“As statutory health councils, in collaboration with the National Department of Health, (we) are working closely to ensure that the provision of health care and essential medicines, including chronic medicines and vaccines, are restored.
The authorities also appealed to those who find that the medicines which they have looted are useless to them, to dispose of them in a safe way.
A Johannesburg Indian-origin pharmacist, who declined to be identified, said that almost a million rand of stock had been looted by mobs who looted two pharmacies that she co-owned in a Black township, stripping one of them of even the roof, ceilings and counters.
“We had some responsible members of the community around one of our pharmacies identifying people who had looted some of our medicines, but by law we cannot restock returned medicines, even if we do find them, because we would not know if they have been tampered with in any way,” she said.
“We are now having to find a way to pay salaries to 22 staff members who have been left destitute to feed their families. My partners and I are determined to rebuild our pharmacies, but it is going to take quite a while as we address the matter with our insurers,” she added.
As mop-up plans in looted areas continued on Tuesday, pharmacies and government facilities resumed the vaccination campaign as it has now been extended to the 35-plus cohort, with over a million people registering for vaccination when this started on 15 July. In the first phase, this was open only to those over 60.
Some public clinics in Gauteng province will also be vaccinating over weekends to catch up with the backlog. PTI FH RUP RUP RUP