Thirteen thousand South African health workers have so far tested positive to COVID-19 with over a hundred deaths. The nation’s health ministry disclosed this on Thursday even as the virus has continued to take its toll on frontline caregivers.
South Africa accounts for the highest number of COVID-19 infection in Africa with 408,052 cases and 5,940 deaths. In terms of diagnosed infections, it ranks fifth in the world.
According to Health ministry spokesman, Popo Maja, 13,174 health workers had become infected as of Tuesday, including 103 deaths and 6,394 people declared recovered. The statistics in the country were unveiled as the World Health Organisation reported that more than 10,000 health workers in 40 countries had been affected by the virus.
“The growth we are seeing in COVID-19 cases in Africa is placing an ever-greater strain on health services across the continent,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, at a news conference on Thursday. “This has very real consequences for the individuals who work in them, and there is no more sobering example of this than the rising number of health worker infections,” she told AFP.
Factors such as a recent spike in infections, staff shortages and a lack of personal protective equipment have been enumerated as reasons for precarious situation in which the nation has found itself. A recent report by South Africa’s National Institute for Occupational Health said hospital admissions of health workers were increasing weekly in line with the national trend of rising numbers of admissions.
The data showed that by 12 July, 2020 some 2.6 percent of COVID-19 hospital admissions in South Africa were healthcare workers. Those infected included nurses, doctors, porters, administrators, paramedics and laboratory scientists.
Speaking to parliament earlier this month, Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, said, “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, PPE supply chains have become severely constrained”. WHO Africa Chief Moeti said it was critical to ensure health workers “have the equipment, skills and information they need to keep themselves, their patients and colleagues safe”.