The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) board has reportedly apologised to Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize for comments made by Professor Glenda Gray.
According to a News24 report on Monday, a letter signed by SAMRC board chairperson Professor Johnny Mahlangu said it would also bar Gray and other staff members from speaking to the media until the matter of Gray’s comments was resolved.
Gray gave an interview in which she criticised aspects of the national lockdown, saying they were unscientific.
The Department of Health hit back publicly last week, saying some of Gray’s claims were false.
Gray, who serves on the ministerial advisory committee, is now facing an inquiry after she made what Mkhize called inaccurate claims that Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital had seen a rise in malnutrition cases as a result of the lockdown.
At the same time, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday evening said the government appreciated and respected the diverse and sometimes challenging views of scientists who were part of the advisory council on COVID-19.
Since COVID-19 hit South African shores, government had sought advise from the ministerial advisory committee and Ramaphosa said the committee had helped ensure the state’s response to the pandemic was informed by the best available scientific evidence.
While Mkhize publicly criticised Gray for “unprofessional and unbecoming conduct and destructive behaviour” for speaking out against lockdown regulations, the president said diverse views were welcome.
“We are extremely grateful for the work they have done and continue to do to ensure that our response is informed by the best available scientific evidence,” Ramaphosa said.
“We appreciate the diverse and sometimes challenging views of the scientists and health professionals in our country, which stimulate public debate and enrich our response,” he added.
The president said government consulted as widely as possible on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and everyone agreed the state acted decisively and appropriately to slow the spread of the virus.