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Only one Covid-19 fatality in SA: Health department clarifies death toll

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

Only one person has died from Covid-19 in SA, the health ministry said on Friday night.

Earlier, the department said that two people had died: a 48-year-old woman and a 28-year-old woman.

However, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize admitted that this was wrong, and sought to clarify the information that was initially provided.

He said that the 48-year-old woman had tested positive for Covid-19, but the 28-year-old was a “suspected case based on her clinical presentation”.

“The clinicians who were treating her have reported to us that this was a 28-year-old female who had presented at the hospital in respiratory distress. At the time of presentation she was hypoxic. She was intubated and transferred to hospital during the early hours of this morning [March 27 2020 at 3am). On arrival in ICU, she was declared dead.

“The clinical picture was suggestive of Covid-19 and, therefore, a test was conducted. Her laboratory results have since been received at 5.20pm and were confirmed negative. Her immediate family was also tested and they are also negative. She is therefore no longer considered a Covid-19 case.

“This therefore means there is only one confirmed death caused by Covid-19 in SA,” said Mkhize.

In the statement, Mkhize also confirmed that the country now had 1,170 confirmed cases of Covid-19 — an increase of 243 new cases from an announcement made on Thursday. So far, 28,537 tests have been conducted.

Of these cases, 55 patients are in hospital, four of whom are in ICU. Of those four, three are on ventilation.

Speaking about the 28-year-old woman's case, Mkhize said: “I have been informed that the health workers that managed this patient have been debriefed and counselled. I am aware that the public interest around Covid-19 may end up making them feel like they did not perform their duties with utmost care.

“As a clinician myself, I want to reassure them that making such a diagnosis on presentation is line with our plea to them to keep a high index of suspicion so as not to miss a diagnosis of Covid-19. This is common practice; medical doctors often make a diagnosis based on a clinical presentation and physical examination of a patient. They then conduct further tests to confirm or disprove the diagnosis.

“In this instance, doctors and all health workers involved exercised clinical judgment and took extra precaution in managing this patient. We support this approach. I therefore want to acknowledge and appreciate all our doctors, nurses and all the health workers who were treating these patients. We salute them for their dedication in the service of the nation.”

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