Gita Ramjee, a virologist of Indian origin, has died of the coronavirus in South Africa, PTI reported on Tuesday. So far, five people have died of Covid-19 in South Africa.
Ramjee, 64, a vaccine scientist and a Human Immunodeficiency Virus prevention researcher, had returned from London a week ago, but showed no symptoms of the disease. Ramjee was the clinical trials unit principal investigator and unit director of the HIV Prevention Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council.
“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. “Professor Ramjee died of Covid-19 related complications.”
Ramjee’s funeral has not yet been announced. Attendance at funerals in South Africa is highly restricted and requires permits, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown last week.
Ramjee was 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.
South Africa has reported 1,353 cases of Covid-19 so far, according to an estimate by Johns Hopkins University. The South African government on Tuesday announced that it will double to 10,000 the teams going door-to-door to test people for the disease, especially in the overcrowded townships created during the apartheid era.