South Africa approves use of dexamethasone to treat COVID-19 as cases top 100,000

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The cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa stood at 92,681 as of Saturday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

Up to 4,966 cases were reported in the past 24 hours, the highest daily surge since the outbreak in early March, Mkhize said.

“Regrettably, we report a further 46 COVID-19 related deaths — 11 from Eastern Cape, three from KwaZulu-Natal and 32 from Western Cape. This brings the total deaths to 1,877,” the minister said.

The mortality and recovery rates stood at 2 percent and 54.3 percent respectively with a total of 50,326 recoveries reported, he added.

The Western Cape Province remained the epicenter of the pandemic, with 50,173 confirmed cases and 1,392 related deaths, followed by the province of Gauteng with 18,978 cases and 114 deaths, the Eastern Cape with 14,721 cases and 268 deaths, and KwaZulu-Natal with 4,806 cases and 83 deaths.

The country has completed almost 1.3 million tests with 33,174 done in the past 24 hours, Mkhize said.The Health Ministry is ready to immediately roll out steroid drug dexamethasone to seriously ill COVID-19 patients, he said, adding that there are three major suppliers of intravenous dexamethasone in the country.

Medical trails conducted by British researchers showed that the drug cuts death rates by around a third among the most severe cases admitted to hospital. But the benefit of dexamethasone was not observed in patients with mild symptom.

Dexamethasone, a well-known and widely-used steroid approved for medical treatment in the 1960s, has potent anti-inflammatory properties and is used in allergic reactions, asthma and other conditions where the inflammatory component of the disease needs to be controlled for better outcomes.

However, some doctors were cautious, citing possible side effects and asking to waiting for more data.

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