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From the frontlines: Which type of health worker is most likely to get COVID-19?

Despite being among those at highest risk of contracting the new coronavirus, information about infections among healthcare workers in South Africa has been scarce. But Health Minister Zweli Mkhize recently released new numbers detailing how the outbreak has impacted health workers across the country.

Resource details:

Publication title: Statement on health care workers that have acquired COVID-19 

Author(s): The department of health

Publication date: 13 August 2020

How many healthcare workers are infected?

  • Healthcare workers are among those at highest risk for contracting any virus that leads to an infectious disease, according to the National Institute of Occupational Health.
  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize recently announced that 27 360 healthcare workers in South Africa had been infected with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, as of 4 August.
  • The majority of these, 78%, were from the public sector, and the remaining 6 027 health workers were from the private sector.
  • There have been 240 deaths and 16 005 recoveries reported as of 4 August.
  • These numbers were provided by provincial health departments and the Hospital Association of South Africa (Hasa).
  • Globally, healthcare worker infections comprise an average of 10% of all reported cases. In South Africa, this proportion is halved, with health worker infections representing 5% of all national COVID-19 cases.

Active healthcare worker cases, as of 7 August:

How infections are distributed among different types of healthcare workers: 

Provincial breakdown: 

Source: National health department, 13 August 2020

Resource details:

Publication title:  Front line talk -South African health care workers’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Author(s): The department of science and innovation, the Human Sciences Research Council, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal

Publication date: 6 August 2020

How do health workers perceive their risk of infections?

The Human Sciences Research Council has surveyed more than 7 000 healthcare workers to find out more about their perceptions of their risk to contract the new coronavirus, their stress levels and how well they’ve been trained in infection control and treatment guidelines. The results were released in August.

Who participated:

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Key take-aways:

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Aisha Abdool Karim was a senior health reporter at Bhekisisa from 2020 to 2022.