The scarcity of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to frontline officers has become increasingly challenging as Covid-19 cases continue to surge, globally. Mr Magkafela Thaba from the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) said that we are now several months into the pandemic and while the infections rates are rising front line workers still do not have all the PPE they need.
Locally, the sheer volume of PPE needed to keep frontline officers safe during this pandemic is unnerving – for example, in the City of Johannesburg thousands of face shields are required to keep frontline officers, such as healthcare professionals and local policing authorities, safe every day.
A University of Johannesburg (UJ) team including staff from the Library and the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture’s Laboratory the FABLAB heeded the call from the City of Johannesburg and embarked on a mass manufacturing of a new technique plastic face shields to meet the high demand.
Member of Mayoral Committee for Public Safety, Councillor Mally Mokoena accepted the initial consignment of 7000 face shields at the University on Wednesday, 24 June 2020.
“The safety of the City of Johannesburg’s frontline workers during the COVID-19 response is of paramount importance. Those brave men and women who tirelessly and with great personal risk and sacrifice engage in the fight against this pandemic deserve the best possible protection. We thank the entire UJ collaboration network for the face shields and for supporting us so swiftly,” said Cllr Mokoena.
“The face shields have to be made rapidly and at low cost because it needed to be adjustable, sanitisable and if needs be disposable,” explains Mr Rudie Strauss, the project manager at UJ MakersSpace. “Our technique combines low-cost materials with a high-rate manufacturing that has the potential of meeting the current need for face shields.”
Fully funded by Investec, Strauss’ team spearheaded the development of the technique in collaboration with UJ’s FabLab, a cross-faculty initiative, and the University of Witwatersrand, who came up with the initial design of face shields made entirely of plastic using laser cutters. This design was then developed further by the UJ team to meet the needs of the City of Johannesburg staff.
Speaking at the handover event, Professor Maria Frahm-Arp, the Executive Director at UJ’s Library pointed out that when South Africa went into lockdown on the 24 March 2020 it became apparent that essential services staff like pharmacists, police personnel and medical staff needed personal protective equipment. “At the time there were very few companies making things like face shields and face masks. Like many other universities we began to print 3D face shields but these take over three hours to print using desktop 3D printers. This laser cutter method is extremely fast and much cheaper, making it possible for us to make 7000 shields in a few days.”
The JMPD spokesperson, Wayne Minnaar showed sincere appreciation for donations of personal protection equipment. He said it is vital that officers are well equipped so they can continue to protect and serve their communities effectively.