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Prominent SA scientist Gita Ramjee dies of COVID-19-related complications

Ramjee, a vaccine scientist and an HIV prevention researcher, had returned from London last week but reportedly showed no symptoms of the coronavirus.

A YouTube screengrab of SA virologist Professor Gita Ramjee.

JOHANNESBURG - Renowned South African scientist Professor Gita Ramjee has died after suffering COVID-19-related complications.

Ramjee died on Tuesday at a hospital in Durban.

It's understood she had complications arising from asthma and pneumonia.

Ramjee, a vaccine scientist and an HIV prevention researcher, had returned from London last week but reportedly showed no symptoms of the coronavirus.

Members of the scientific fraternity and local activists have shared their praises for the researcher.

At the time of her death, Ramjee worked at Aurum Institute, a global healthcare organisation which aims to prevent and eradicate HIV and tuberculosis.

The institute's Kanya Ndaki said that the chief scientific officer was a bold and compassionate leader in the response to HIV.

"She firmly believed that health is a fundamental human right and her groundbreaking work in HIV prevention contributed to the global response to HIV/Aids. The world has lost a leader in research and science. We will mourn her passing and also celebrate the huge contribution that she made to HIV in her life."

Deputy President David Mabuza, in his capacity as chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), also sent his condolences on the passing of Ramjee.

In a statement, the deputy president said: "The passing of Professor Ramjee comes as a huge blow to the entirety of the healthcare sector and the global fight against HIV/AIDS. In her, we have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically at the hands of this global pandemic. In her honour, we should heed the call to flatten the curve by strengthening our responses to this global pandemic as well as continue the fight to achieve zero new HIV infections. We would like to convey our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Professor Ramjee as well as to the medical research community. May her soul rest in peace."

Ramjee's passing is the second coronavirus related death to hit KwaZulu-Natal.

So far, at least five people have died in the country from COVID-19.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.