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Full report: How 135 people at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban got COVID-19

The report outlines in detail how SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, spread through Netcare’s 149-bed facility in Durban

Resource details:

Publication: Report into a nosocomial outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital.


  • Richard Lessells, infectious diseases specialist at KwaZulu‐Natal Research Innovation & Sequencing Platform, Krisp
  • Tulio de Oliveira, Krisp director
  • Yunus Moosa, head of the department of infectious diseases at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine

Publication date: 15 May 2020

What the documents are about:

Key take-aways from the report:

  • The hospital outbreak was caused by a single patient admitted to the hospital’s emergency department.
  • At St. Augustine’s, 80 staff and 39 patients in at least five different wards were infected between 9 March and 30 April.
  • The outbreak led to an additional 21 cases at a Durban nursing home at St. Augustine’s outpatient dialysis unit. 
  • The main way the virus spread was most probably through droplets containing the virus transferred by health workers.
  • Slow detection of COVID-19 cases fuelled the spread of the virus. By the time health workers picked up the first case, 16 other people had already been infected.


  • Staff must be retrained in COVID-19 prevention with a special focus on hand hygiene.
  • Facilities must monitor staff adherence to infection control rules.
  • Physical distance inside and outside the hospital is crucial.
  • Facilities could consider testing staff weekly.
  • A three-tier system must be put in place for both entry and admission to the facility. That includes a “red zone” for confirmed COVID-19 patients, an “orange zone” for suspected cases, and a “green zone” for people who are unlikely to be infected.

Download the full investigative report here.

Joan van Dyk was a health journalist, senior health journalist and news editor at Bhekisisa between 2017 and 2023.