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What happened with Glenda Gray? A timeline

What is Glenda Gray's role during COVID-19 and what happened between her and the Health Department? A timeline of how it unfolded.

Dr Glenda Gray. Picture: Wikipedia.

JOHANNESBURG – Glenda Gray, professor and president of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), is probably a name you’ve seen in various publications and on social media. She has pioneered work in the HIV and Aids field of study, and has won awards. But she has recently become a topic of discussion for the wrong reasons.

On 22 May 2020, Gray spoke to 702’s Eusebius McKaiser about the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown. She said, “E-commerce doesn't cause COVID-19 and making people exercise from 6am to 9am causes congestion. There were compelling reasons for the lockdown. But there comes a time when the value of the lockdown becomes negligible and we are at that stage of the pandemic.”

Her conversation with McKaiser came after an interview with News24 where she stated that government ignored advice from scientists. She also told News24 that the phased relaxation of lockdown regulations was nonsensical, and touted unverified information that “we are seeing children with malnutrition for the first time [at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital]. We have not seen malnutrition for decades and so we are seeing it for the first time in the hospital.” News24 later clarified this comment in an update of the article.

Gray, who sits on the ministerial advisory committee on COVID-19, said comments about some of the various lockdown level regulations were not directed at the Health Minister or his department.

“Their job is to make sure that hospitals are ready for this pandemic. The grey areas come in the narrative of regulations. Let the children out, they won’t be adversely affected, protect the vulnerable, and keep them safe and let us go out and do what we do. But we have reached a point of no longer having additional benefits of keeping the lockdown,” Gray added.

But her comments were not taken lightly by the Health Department, Minister Zweli Mkhize, and some of her colleagues.

DISAPPOINTMENT & INVESTIGATION, A TIMELINE OF CONDEMNATION OF GRAY'S COMMENTS

About six days ago, Minister Mkhize expressed disappointment with Gray’s comments, saying her statements were false and caused unnecessary sensationalism.

Mkhize said the ministerial advisory committee provided 50 advisories, which were all accepted and considered as part of broader consultations and inputs from other departments, provinces, and various stakeholders, including business and labour.

The minister said Gray had access to his department and never raised other issues about advice she was providing, but instead went to the media, adding he believed this undermined the work government was doing.

HEALTH DEPARTMENT HEAD CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO GRAY

Then two days ago, Anban Pillay, the acting director-general of the Department of Health, requested an investigation into the conduct of Gray, claiming that she “made a number of false allegations against government”.

Pillay stated he received calls about Gray’s conduct as president of the MRC on matters other than her statements to the media.

“I [therefore recommend that the board investigates the conduct [of Gray] on this matter given the harm it has caused to South Africa’s COVID-19 response,” Pillay said.

SAMRC BOARD APOLOGISES TO MKHIZE FOR GRAY’S COMMENTS

The same day, Pillay called for an investigation into Gray, the SAMRC board reportedly apologised to Mkhize for her comments.

Meanwhile, the likes of Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib and political analyst Lesiba Teffo called for the SAMRC to drop the investigation into Gray. The SAMRC board has reportedly cleared Gray of any transgressions.