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Lessons learned from the medical response to COVID-19

Right now, global attention is understandably on the pandemic. We’re looking for answers and hope. As such, all eyes are on the World Health Organisation (WHO), who are demonstrating an evidence-based approach and a belief in the power of collaboration. We’re huge advocates of working together and are confident that our partnerships with SAPS and local organisations are integral to our successes in the area. We’re interested to analyse what lessons we can learn from the evidence-based approach to handling COVID-19.

A hugely encouraging aspect of the WHO’s approach has been collaboration. During COVID-19 we have seen the launch of an unprecedented initiative, the first global trial to test a number of drugs approved for other uses to see if they can be repurposed and used on patients with severe COVID-19. This worldwide WHO joint effort from medics, researchers, and patients in all sorts of countries is aptly named SOLIDARITY. It reminds us of the strength we gain by working with our partners in law enforcement and communities.

The WHO is also an evidence-based body. They amass the most convincing scientific research and use it to ‘direct and coordinate international health’. Politicians around the globe are, at the very least, absorbing WHO findings, and most of the restrictions or lockdowns have been informed by WHO science and guidelines. Of course, each country is also considering their specific understanding of their communities, economy, geography and many other factors to create a tailored approach. In this way, we at the GP/OKCID can look to policies working elsewhere, and then consider how to translate them into our particular environments.

The WHO are constantly updating their guidance. They are honest in acknowledging that research becomes outdated as new information emerges, and transparent that as we learn more guidelines will change to remain current. Many governments, on the basis of WHO findings, denied the necessity of wearing masks, but when evidence-based advice was updated, introduced them at a later date. This is about being transparent. They didn’t make the ‘wrong’ call and then correct it, it’s just that the ‘right’ decision is the right decision given the current information and can therefore be superseded or altered whenever we learn more.

We must be brave and agile enough to introduce new policies and approaches for our team as different information arrives, in confidence that this shows us to be flexible and informed rather than worrying that it reflects on us as having made the wrong call previously.

Evidence led practice isn’t only effective in a pandemic, or a medical context. It also isn’t new to South Africa, but actually central to the national governance approach!

Managing social and criminal issues can also adopt this approach. We are constantly responding to the situation on the ground, but are learning from this pandemic that our best response will also be informed by the evidence of what works to limit damage (of any sort) and increase trust in our team. There’s a role for intuition in the moment, but we must also look to research rather than lean on assumptions. Often the data is surprising, and it’s a moveable feast as this pandemic is teaching.

There won’t always be directly relevant information for us to point to, and in those cases, we should create an idea, and then test it on the ground. This means measuring results, like the impact of certain initiatives or approaches, whilst continuing all of our work to keep the OKCID a safe, clean, appealing place to live, work and play.

Crime in Cape Town, or even just our neighbourhoods is too significant for us to wipe out, or even to effectively respond to, alone. We can take from the handling of COVID-19 that there is benefit from admitting the scale of the problem, and the impossibility of immediately resolving it. We can also adopt the learning that we can most effectively reduce the problem by working together. Just as collaboration between different organisations, hospitals, charities and governments has helped the COVID-19 response, so too can our teamwork with SAPS and charities increase the efficacy of our local efforts against crime, grime and social issues.

We hope that you are able to remain safe, well, and in accordance with the latest government advice through this pandemic. Though we have adjusted our service at this time, we and our partners at SAPS remain here to protect and serve you, so please do get in touch if we can help.


If you have information about any suspicious behaviour or witness a crime please report it to us immediately. Please provide as much detail as possible.


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