ICU mortality reduced by at least 25% since the introduction of dexamethasone - Mkhize

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize
Darren Stewart, Gallo Images
  • South Africa's Covid-19 mortality rate has been reduced thanks to treatment developments.
  • One study shows ICU mortality has been reduced by about 25% since the introduction of dexamethasone.
  • While the country has experienced challenges, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says South Africa has coped with the surge.

South Africa has benefitted from various treatment developments that have led to a reduction in the mortality rate, as Covid-19 infections surge countrywide.

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"It appears we may have benefitted from treatment developments as we were experiencing our surge," Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said during a virtual Covid-19 briefing on Wednesday.

"Our indications are that there has already been an improvement in the survival rate from intensive care units [ICU], where the mortality has been reduced demonstrably. One study shows ICU mortality has been reduced by about 25% since the introduction of dexamethasone on 16 June," Mkhize said.

In another study undertaken by the South African Medical Research Council, ICU survival rates showed a dramatic improvement at 30% to 40%, whereas the ICU mortality rate at the beginning of the pandemic was around 80%.

Bed, oxygen and staff capacity 

In its assessment on the availability of beds, oxygen and staff, the health department said it has not breached its bed capacity and continues to fill vacancies where there are gaps.

"While there have been constraints, work has been done to ensure vacancies are filled. However, we can also confirm that we have not breached our bed capacity and many of our field hospitals are not filled to capacity. We continue to monitor this as we manage the surge," said Mkhize.

While the country has experienced challenges, Mkhize said South Africa has so far coped with the surge.

READ | It's possible that SA could experience a second surge of coronavirus cases - Zweli Mkhize

"I want to submit, with all humility, that up to now, our government has displayed its readiness and has thus far coped with the surge," he said.

While government is coping with the surge in infections, the department has directed all provinces to enter into service level agreements with private health facilities to ensure that when bed shortages are experienced, alternatives can be explored.

Update on vaccines

On efforts to find a vaccine, Mkhize said while it is still early days, government has undertaken to get involved and invest in the development of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

"Currently, we are participating in the ChAdOx-1 study and in the COVAX project to be part of the global research initiatives, as well as access to vaccine programmes. We also wish to pursue the possibility of manufacturing vaccines locally."

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