Renowned virologist Gita Ramjee has become the first Indian origin South African to have died after contracting the Novel Coronavirus which has by far killed five people in the country. According to the country’s Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, Ramjee had underlying chronic asthma and hypertension. The chairperson of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has claimed that Gita had been infected with the Novel Coronavirus, however, her medical report is yet to come.
Gita Ramjee, a vaccine scientist and an HIV prevention research leader, had returned from London a week ago but reportedly showed no symptoms of COVID-19.
“We are deeply saddened to inform you of the tragic passing of Professor Gita Ramjee in hospital today,” a statement issued by the president and chief executive officer of the council, Glenda Gray said, confirming that “Professor Ramjee died of COVID-19 related complications.”
Gita Ramjee, who lived in KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa, was the clinical trials unit principal investigator and unit director of the HIV Prevention Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council and the Chief Scientific Officer at the Aurum Institute.
Aurum is deeply saddened by the death of its Chief Scientific Officer Prof Gita Ramjee, world renowned for her tireless work to find HIV prevention solutions for women. Group CEO Gavin Churchyard, described her as; “a bold & compassionate leader in the response to HIV.” pic.twitter.com/9DvcjfInlh— The Aurum Institute (@Auruminstitute) March 31, 2020
She received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Microbicide Conference in 2012. She was also presented with the Outstanding Female Scientist Award in Lisbon by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships in 2018.
The award was given for her lifetime commitment to finding new HIV prevention methods, which are conducive to the lifestyles, circumstances and perceived risk factors for South African women. “This award is an acknowledgement of the unwavering determination by a global community to forever change the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” Ramjee had said at the time.
Ramjee’s funeral is yet to be announced since attendance at funerals in South Africa is highly restricted and requires permits after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown last week.
South Africa now has 1353 confirmed cases of infection and as many as five people have died from COVID-19 so far.