Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Died from vs Died with Covid-19

This past week signalled Botswana’s deadliest week ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus. 

The National Task Force announced an additional 20 deaths in just three days, bringing the country’s death toll to 105. 

As the death toll continues to rise so will be questions about the true nature of the cause of death for various cases. 

Questions about the transparency of COVID-19 diagnosis have been raised in the past. The government’s secrecy in relation to all things coronavirus has only served to fuel conspiracy theories about the true statistics of COVID-19 cases. 

Granted, the devastating impact of COVID-19 across the world can never be overestimated.  But questions about the true impact of the virus in relation to deaths will remain. 

The biggest question remains the transparency in determining the cause of death for someone with a COVD-19 positive diagnosis. How do they differentiate between death by pre-existing conditions, and death by Coronavirus? Questions arise as to whether the numbers of reported COVID-19 deaths reflect reality. 

Whether the 105 reported deaths reflect truly those who have died from Coronavirus or have died with a Coronavirus positive diagnosis. No information has been shared to assist how the government determines the category under which any of the deaths fall.  

In an effort to clear this confusion the World Health Organisation (WHO) has made an attempt to define a Coronavirus death. 

“A COVID-19 death is defined for surveillance purposes as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness in a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID-19 disease (e.g. trauma). There should be no period of complete recovery between the illness and death.”

In Botswana, questions have also been raised about the true nature of one’s posthumous diagnosis from as early as March 2020 when the first COVID-19 was announced in Ramotswa. 

Contact tracing following the old woman’s posthumous diagnosis yielded no answers. There was no trail. Her family were left to deal with the stigma of a case that that had more questions than answers. 

Government officials had also flouted their own contact tracing guidelines despite the perceived threat to public health as family members left without testing or institutional quarantine.  

The Telegraph had reported about the then weaknesses in the government testing systems that had delivered contrasting results of the Ramotswa woman. 

Information obtained by this publication had suggested the deceased may have suffered an asthma attack at the worst possible time, sending panic waves around the Bamalete Lutheran Hospital where she had been admitted. 

Her most recent travel history didn’t help the situation. South Africa had just recorded an alarming surge in the number of confirmed cases. 

The National COVID-19 Task Force have always maintained an ‘on a need to know basis’ stance with regard to sharing information with the media. 

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