Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the introduction of the drug dexamethasone has reduced fatalities of Covid-19 patients in ICU by 25% since the it was introduced two months ago.
The drug was introduced to treat critically ill Covid-19 patients.
South Africa introduced the drug into it’s Covid-19 treatment programme in June after preliminary research showed that the drug reduced ICU fatalities by a third.
The introduction of the drug came after Oxford University, in Britain, found that dexamethasone had reduced the mortality rate by a third in patients on ventilators and by one fifth in patients who required oxygen.
As of Tuesday night, South Africa had a total of 521 318 confirmed coronavirus infections, 8 884 deaths and 363 751 recoveries.
“It appears we may have benefited from treatment developments while we were experiencing our surge. Our indications are that there has already been an improvement in the survival rate from 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 June 16.
“In another study undertaken by the MRC (Medical Research Council), ICU survival rates showed dramatic improvement at 30-40%, whereas the ICU mortality rate at the beginning of the pandemic was around 80%,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize said the national health department had directed the provincial health departments to sign service level agreements with private health-care facilities in a bid to ensure that there were no bed shortages.
On the availability of beds and oxygen capacity, Mkhize said they were continuously assessing the availability of beds and oxygen and their staff complement.
“While there have been constraints, work has been done to ensure vacancies are filled. We can also confirm that we have not breached our bed capacity and many of our field hospitals are not filled to capacity and we continue to monitor this as we manage the surge.
“We have no doubt experienced challenges and glitches. This is in no way unique to our country. I therefore want to submit, with all humility, that up to now our government has displayed its readiness and has thus far coped with the surge,” said the minister.
On possible vaccines, he said it was “still early days”.
“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 the access to vaccines programme.
“We also wish to pursue the possibility of manufacturing vaccines locally,” he said.