Johannesburg: A two-day-old baby became the youngest victim of coronavirus in South Africa as the death toll due to the infection continues to rise ahead of the proposed easing of lockdown restrictions from June 1.
According to the latest figures, the fatality count has risen to 339 in the country with 25 fresh deaths while the number of those testing positive for the virus has gone up to 18,003.
A total of 8,950 people have recovered from the disease so far.
“Sadly, we have recorded the first neonatal mortality related to COVID-19. The baby was two-day-old and was born prematurely, Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday.
The baby had lung difficulties which required ventilation support immediately after birth, he said, adding that the child’s mother had earlier tested positive for the infection.
Mkhize said a health care worker was among those who died in the preceding 24 hours.
My heart goes out to the family, colleagues and loved ones of this compatriot,” he said.
“When COVID-19 claims the lives of the very people who are the bedrock of the national response, we feel the loss in so many ways. I want to send a special tribute to the health care workers who continue to serve with honour and compassion despite the real risks they face, Mkhize added.
Mkhize earlier confirmed that South Africa does not meet the criteria set to ease the lockdown.
But amid spiralling unemployment and poverty, expectations are that the country will ease the lockdown restrictions from June 1 to avoid the collapse of the economy.
The government has also come under pressure after it announced on Tuesday that schools will reopen from June 1 in a phased manner.
Five teacher unions on Wednesday said their own independent research has shown that most schools, especially in rural areas, will not be ready on time with the measures announced to ensure that students do not contract the infection.
Many parents expressed concern over the decision on radio talk shows and social media, saying they will not send their children to school.
If you still consider opening all businesses and work places a high risk for adults, why allow our children to take that risk at schools, where young children will inevitably join their friends because they don’t understand the risks fully, a mother said.
The Department of Education has assured that plans are in place to ensure proper sanitation and social distancing in all schools.