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Volkswagen to convert PE plant into temporary Covid-19 medical facility

Volkswagen SA has made its Port Elizabeth plant available as a temporary medical facility to help treat Covid-19 patients.
Volkswagen SA has made its Port Elizabeth plant available as a temporary medical facility to help treat Covid-19 patients.
Image: Supplied

To assist local and provincial government in providing much-needed care to Covid-19 patients in Nelson Mandela Bay, Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) has made its Port Elizabeth plant available as a temporary medical facility.

The plant in Neave, Korsten, which is currently not in use, will be converted and used as an overflow medical facility. Once fully operational, the facility could accommodate up to 4,000 beds for patients diagnosed with the coronavirus. This would also include high-acuity patients who require oxygenation.

The planned conversion of the 66,000m² building is the result of collaboration formed between VWSA, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality and the Eastern Cape department of health.

The German federal ministry for economic cooperation and development (BMZ) will provide funding of 5.2m (roughly R104m) to support the conversion of the plant as well as the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff at regional tertiary hospitals, regional primary care clinics and 49 Covid-19 test centres.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusamenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH will provide the performance framework to account for the public and private engagement and will foster the cooperation with the private sector to establish a sustainable strategic alliance in Nelson Mandela Bay.

VWSA will contribute R28m to the project. Additionally, VWSA will provide project management for the conversion of the facility and management of the procurement of the critical PPE.   

The plant will be made available to government until March 2021, with the department of health and the municipality responsible for the management and daily operations of the facility. The chamber's role has been to assist in facilitating the project and garnering further support from its membership base.

Following the signing of the agreement between the parties, the facility is to be completed in phases and handed over to government as the need for medical care in the metro develops. The preparation of the first phase is currently ongoing and will take approximately six to eight weeks to be completed. This process will equip the medical facility to accommodate up to 1,484 patients.

This commitment is VW's latest move in the fight against the global Covid-19 crisis. The company has also been working on the manufacture of ventilators, respirators and masks in partnership with other local businesses, and has offered ongoing support to the chamber and the municipality in their coordinated efforts to bolster medical care in metro.

"Solidarity is crucial in a crisis - and Covid-19 is an unprecedented global threat," said Thomas Schaefer, chairman and managing director of VWSA.

"Through collaboration, we will be able to achieve the position of strength we will need to fight the Covid-19 virus.

"VWSA has devoted its time to finding innovative ways in which we can combat the scourge of Covid-19 and prepare the metro to care for those who are infected. We are highly appreciative of the financial support from the BMZ/GIZ, as it will help us to continue to offer support to protect our citizens and our country."