South Africa: Vital to Protect Newborns and Their Mothers During the Covid-19 Pandemic


Multiple challenges exist in preventing infection of one of our most vulnerable population groups, but Tygerberg Hospital is rising to the challenge with the implementation of policies and systems that not only mitigate the spread of coronavirus, but could also address broader infection control.

While caring for patients during Covid-19 has focused mainly on adults, this is also a worrying time for a very vulnerable section of our population - newborn babies, as well as their mothers and the hospital staff looking after them in neonatal and obstetric wards across South Africa.

Neonates (babies who are under 28 days old) and especially preterm babies (less than 37 weeks gestational age) and those who weigh below 2.5kg, are particularly vulnerable as their underdeveloped immune systems struggle to fight infections.

Hospitalised newborns are at even higher risk of infections, including Covid-19, as they often have to spend considerable time in hospital for feeding and growing, where they are exposed to multiple caregivers. Most of our public sector hospitals don't have isolation facilities. This increases the risk of spreading the virus among babies, mothers and hospital staff.

One of the difficulties in shielding hospitalised babies from Covid-19 is that many adults have asymptomatic...

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