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No matter the level of “lockdown,” evidence shows that people living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are at higher risk of severe complication if they contract COVID-19 and people living with NCDs (PLWNCDs) need to remain vigilant.

NCDs are common chronic conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases, obesity, cancer, and dementia. Mental illness and disabilities are included in the of the NCDs group of conditions. Before the COVID-19, the NCDs group of illness were the leading cause of death in South Africa. However, the prevention and treatment of NCDs remain neglected with limited statistics, unknown levels of resources and unimplemented policy.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its management by governments highlights the importance of a resilient health system. The last ten weeks of lockdown in South Africa, according to President Ramaphosa, were necessary to give our health system to prepare for the expected surge of COVID-19 patients. Reference speech 24 May 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa underscores that living with an NCD makes us significantly vulnerable with an even greater risk of dying prematurely. COVID-19 exposes NCDs inequity in the health system requiring urgent, coordinated all-of-society and all-of-government policy and implementation along with adequate resources.

A functional national health system provides universal health coverage that provides the health care that the people need is a national priority. Universal health coverage means that PLWNCDs can receive quality health services that are equal to those offered for HIV and communicable conditions. Such care must be affordable. The South African version of universal health coverage, National Health Insurance (NHI), must undertake to provide equitable access to quality NCDs care that is equitable to that offered in HIV programmes.

The COVID-19 pandemic shows that PLWNCDs are another vulnerable group not previously recognised. And, that NCDs levels are highest in disadvantaged communities. And, to make matters more challenging, people have more than one NCD that requires simultaneous.

We, together with government health care providers (national, provincial health departments, and districts) need to step up NCDs action:

  • Include NCDs prevention and treatment in preparedness plans, acknowledging the links between COVID-19 complications and “underlying” pre-existing NCDs .
  • Continue the delivery of routine NCDs and mental health services including medicines, devices and technologies, supportive and palliative services .
  • Step up the screening and diagnosis of NCDs with rapid links to treatment and care.
  • Undertake accepted measures to protect both people living in care homes and residential facilities.
  • Retain, recruit, train, protect their workers so that they well-resourced to meet the NCDs and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Provide and facilitate the mental health of patients and workers.
  • Create and implement NCDs policies with civil society for greater transparency, accountability, monitoring and enforcement to achieve good health and well-being for all, while preventing and addressing conflicts of interest.
  • Meaningfully engage with PLWNCDs to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate the COVID-19 response for NCDs.

CANSA, with input from the South African NCDs Alliance, Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, Diabetes SA, National Kidney Foundation, Dementia SA and Education for Health Africa, has compiled infographics covering the following information to assist the public affected by non-communicable diseases:

  • COVID-19 & NCDs introduction
  • General steps for all people living with NCDs
  • If you get COVID-19 symptoms
  • Shielding the extremely vulnerable
  • COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease
  • COVID-19 & respiratory diseases
  • COVID-19 & diabetes
  • COVID-19 & dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • COVID-19 & kidney disease

View Infographics | Download Infographics

Click here for information regarding COVID-19 & Cancer

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