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South African academy wants broader scientific response to Covid-19

Psychologists, anthropologists, social scientists needed in pandemic battle

The Academy of Science of South Africa has called on government to broaden the thematic spectrum of its science response against the Covid-19 pandemic.

ASSAf said in a 18 May statement attributed to its council that government bodies which coordinate the Covid-19 response must include scientists from a broader range of disciplines.

“The pandemic is not simply a medical problem but a social problem as well. This means that social scientists and humanities scholars should also form part of these advisory structures,” the statement said.

The academy said that crucial issues related to mental health, domestic violence, governance, inequality, cultural practices and economics must be addressed. 

“Government would benefit from such an inclusive, multidisciplinary approach to science advice that can only strengthen the leadership response to the pandemic,” ASSAf said.

The academy praised the government for its response so far and for basing its decisions on scientific advice. However, it felt more regional collaboration is needed, as well as a research focus on what should come after the pandemic.

“The novel coronavirus has laid bare the deep inequalities in our society. We dare not reset as a country without addressing the dangerous fault lines exposed by the pandemic,” the statement warned.