In Practice

COVID-19: The role of artificial intelligence in empowering the healthcare sector and enhancing social distancing measures during a pandemic

S Mahomed


Indiscriminatory in its spread, COVID-19 has engulfed communities from all social backgrounds throughout the world. While healthcare professionals work tirelessly testing for the virus and caring for patients, they too have become casualties of the pandemic. Currently the best way to attempt to curb the spread of the virus, echoed by almost all nation leaders, is to distance ourselves from one another socially or physically. However ideal this may seem, social distancing is not always practical in densely populated lower-income countries with many citizens below the breadline. With the majority of South Africans living in poverty, communities in overcrowded households are unable to distance themselves from one another appropriately. In addition, as a nation we struggle with high HIV and tuberculosis rates, malnutrition and an already overburdened healthcare system, emphasising the extreme vulnerability of our people. These factors, coupled with the fact that many of our healthcare professionals lack the necessary personal protective equipment to prevent them from contracting the virus themselves, highlight the gravity of the damaging repercussions that we may face in the coming months, after the complete national lockdown in force at the time of writing is lifted and we move towards a partial lockdown state. Nationally, there needs to be a shift in mindset towards exploring alternative technology-based preventive measures that may empower the healthcare sector in the long term and enhance social distancing.

Author's affiliations

S Mahomed, Department of Jurisprudence, School of Law, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Artificial intelligence; Social distancing; Technology-based preventive measures; Healthcare; Pandemic; COVID-19

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(7):610-612. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i7.14841

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-06-03
Date published: 2020-06-03

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