The Western Cape, which has the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country, says clinical protocols are already being developed for the use of the drug, Dexamethasone, in its battle against the disease. This follows the release of the outcomes of recovery trial in the United Kingdom, which shows a positive impact on severely ill patients and those on ventilators.

In the video below, Prof Salim Karim unpacks the use of Dexamethasone to treat COVID-19:

The province currently has a death toll of over 1 300.

With some 12 500 active cases, the Western Cape has a COVID-19 recovery rate of 70%.

Just under 1 500 patients are currently admitted in public and private hospitals of which some 250 are in ICU or high care.

The province says these units are running at near capacity at both Tygerberg and Groote Schuur hospitals, but it is encouraged by a number of clinical interventions.

Health Department Head Keith Cloete says the high flow oxygen is making a difference.

“The high flow oxygen that we are bringing online is making really a difference in Groote Schuur and Tygerberg and we are preparing for high flow oxygen as an alternate to people having to be on ventilators.”

Dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication which was found to have reduced mortality rates by a third, has been hailed as a breakthrough in saving the lives of those severely ill with COVID-19.

Cloete says South Africa is a major manufacturer of the oral form of the drug and also has large stocks of the intravenous version.

“The ministerial advisory committee in SA has already considered the results and has made a recommendation that we should use. On the basis of the results of the study, Dexamethasone in the treatment of people on ventilators and the treatment of people on oxygen because  of the good results that has been recorded in the study.”

The results of the Oxford University trial, although not yet formally published, have paved the way for its use in decreasing COVID-19 deaths. Provincial Health Minister, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, says the drug will be introduced as an essential drug.

“We need to welcome the fact that Dexamethasone that will be introduced into our essential drug list in South Africa, has been confirmed by the research team in the UK, which will assist in the reduction of the deaths of those on oxygen and those on ventilators.”

A team of clinicians in the province are currently developing specific guidelines for the introduction of Dexamethosone treatment in the Western Cape. National Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the country, which has recorded some 87 715 cases to date, is able to immediately offer the treatment.

In the video below, Dr Mkhize talks about the use of Dexamethasone as a treatment for COVID-19: