Covid-19 hospitalisations in SA: What latest numbers from the NICD tell us

Healthcare systems around the world have been under immense pressure to cope with an exponential Covid-19 infection rate since the start of the pandemic – and South Africa is no exception.

A recent sentinel report by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) revealed data on Covid-19 hospitalisations in SA. The report was included in the latest release by the Department of Health on case management in the context of Covid-19 in the country, and is based on 10 700 Covid-19 admissions from 269 facilities (71 public sector and 198 private) in the country between 5 March and 21 June.

Key findings were detailed in a statement from Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday, and covered the following:

Age of Covid-19 admitted patients

Of the 10 700 admitted patients, a total of 338 (3%) were 18 years or younger, and 1 386 (13%) were older than 70 years. The report also indicates that 5 778 (54%) were female.

Covid-19 and comorbidities

Mkhize said in a media release in May that data for patients who had been hospitalised with Covid-19 showed that hypertension, diabetes and cardiac disease are the three most common comorbidities associated with serious illness as a result of Covid-19. 

The NICD report revealed that among 8 245 (77%) of patients with comorbidities, a total of 2 810 (34%) had one comorbid condition, while 3 126 (37%) presented with two or more comorbidities.

In the case of one comorbidity in 5 836 patients, hypertension was the most commonly reported (59%), with diabetes following at 2 813 (48%), and 1 116 (19%) patients with HIV. Tuberculosis (TB) was also seen in 240 (4%) active cases and 579 (10%) patients reported a previous history of TB.

Obesity and Covid-19

Obesity was identified early in the Covid-19 outbreak as a risk factor, Health24 previously reported. The NICD report notes that while obesity was not consistently reported in all Covid-19 admissions, clinicians noted the condition as a risk factor for Covid-19 in 297 (3%) patients. 

Mortality and discharged rates

At the time of the report, 3 260 (31%) patients were in hospital and 5 925 (55%) were discharged or transferred out. A total of 1 515 (14%) patients had died.

The report further indicates that out of 7 324 patients who had recorded in-hospital outcomes (died and discharged), a total of 1 515 died. Factors associated with patients dying in hospital included the following:

  • Older age groups
  • Being male
  • Having comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic cardiac disease, chronic renal disease, malignancy, HIV, and obesity

The DoH further mentioned: “We are a government that values science and we remain guided by scientific literature as higher levels of evidence emerge from more robust studies.”

As of 1 July, South Africa has 151 209 confirmed cases and 2 657 deaths. Stay up to date with the latest numbers here.  

READ | Covid-19 patients with high blood pressure face higher risk of death, study says

READ | Blood pressure medications do not increase Covid-19 risk

READ | Obesity and Covid-19: Junk food industry ‘shares the blame’, some experts say

Image: Getty

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