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Infectious Diseases

05 August 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Alcohol industry not taking legal route yet, and latest on schools

The alcohol industry is not heading to court yet over the booze ban but the legal route is an option; and the latest from Minister Motshekga on schools.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 521 318.

According to the latest update, 8 884 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 363 751 recoveries.

So far, a total of more than 3.07 million tests have been conducted, with 19 507 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The alcohol industry will not be taking the legal route for the lifting of the ban on the sale of alcohol just yet but is in discussion with government about how it can be lifted.

The recourse for the industry was one of the points discussed in the South African Breweries (SAB) industry leaders meeting on Tuesday.

This comes as the sale of alcohol was reinstated last month after March’s initial ban was lifted.

Government brought back the ban as a result of an increase in alcohol related trauma cases at hospitals preparing for a peak in Covid-19 cases that is expected at the end of this month.

CEO of the AB InBev subsidiary, SAB, Ricardo Moreira said taking legal action was an option that is always available for the industry but it is not there yet. The cigarette industry that has been subject to a ban since the lockdown began in March has taken this route.

READ MORE | Alcohol ban: Industry not heading to court yet but legal route is an option

The basic education department anticipates that it will take about three years to catch up on parts of the curriculum that won't be covered this year due to the widespread impact of Covid-19, according to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Motshekga said on Tuesday that while the department trimmed the curriculum for internal grades, the work would still be covered in the grades to which pupils progressed.

"We are going to only teach, assess almost 70% of what [internal grades] were supposed to have taken. And in 2021, when the Grade 3s, for instance, start, we will start with Grade 2 work which we had removed from the curriculum."

The minister was speaking in Lethlabile in the North West, on Tuesday where she visited two high schools to monitor the return of Grade 12 pupils after they were on a week-long break from 27 July until 3 August.

She said the truncated curriculum would only see 70% of the syllabus completed by December, adding that the catch-up programme might run for about three years.

READ MORE | Lockdown: It could take 3 years to catch up on work cut from 2020 curriculum - Angie Motshekga

The Eastern Cape government has sanctioned research focusing on how more than 70 000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 managed to recover from the virus, most without any hospital support.

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane on Tuesday said he had instructed medical teams to do research with the purpose of finding a solution as the virus entered the expected peak period.

Mabuyane said he believed the recoveries held the key in the battle against the Covid-19 virus.

"We have instructed our teams to ascertain how more than 70 000 people who were infected with the virus defeated it without being hospitalised. This is crucial information we must have at our disposal going into the peak months of this virus," he said.

READ MORE | Eastern Cape looking into how 70 000 recovered from Covid-19 as province heads into peak

The ANC's national executive committee (NEC), after spending the weekend discussing corruption, among other issues, once again condemned these acts and vowed to fight the scourge, which has become largely associated with the party and its members.

On Friday, the NEC, which is the highest decision-making body in the ANC, met to discuss recent wide-ranging issues including: reports of graft, the Covid-19 pandemic, Women's Month, local government, the taxi industry indaba and infrastructure development's role in the country's plans for economic recovery.

News24 reported that the party's attempt to discuss corruption over the weekend fast became a finger-pointing exercise with different factions blaming the other for benefiting from corruption.

In a statement by its secretary-general Ace Magashule on Tuesday, the party said it was "outraged" and "ashamed" by the reports of corruption, with some of its own seeking to unlawfully benefit from the suffering experienced by many due to Covid-19.

Several corruption claims relating to the procurement of personal protective equipment have surfaced in recent weeks - this followed other claims of the looting and using of food parcels to dispense political patronage.

READ MORE | Covid-19 corruption: ANC NEC embarrassed by allegations, says public outrage is justified

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Late on Tuesday night, positive cases worldwide more than 18.73 million, while deaths were more than 696 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - close to 4.75 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 156 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Spain aims to roll out a Covid-19 contact-tracing app across the country in September after saying on Monday that a pilot showed it could detect almost twice as many potential infections as human trackers during a simulated outbreak on a tiny island.

In the absence of a vaccine or cure, states are deploying Bluetooth wireless technology to log contacts and alert people when someone they have been near tests positive.

Spain used a new system developed by Google and Apple which holds data on individual devices to ensure privacy, to build an app it tested on La Gomera, an island next to the tourist hotspot of Tenerife in the Canary archipelago, in July.

Now the government aims to offer it to regional health authorities who could have it ready by mid-September, and from 10 August to tourism-dependent areas or places where cases are rising, said Carme Artigas, head of the state digital and artificial intelligence unit.

"The app sees more than we see because we only remember contacts with people we know, but the app also remembers contacts with strangers," Artigas said.

READ MORE | Spain to roll out Covid-19 app twice as effective as human tracers in pilot

LATEST RESEARCH

From a dry cough to bluish lips, to a loss of smell and taste, the virus that knows no boundaries has produced yet another unusual symptom, hearing loss.

While it is well known that coronavirus can travel deep in the body and affect your respiratory system, i.e. your nose, throat and lungs, researchers from John Hopkins School of Medicine have found that it can also infect the ear and mastoid bone of the skull, just behind the ear.

The team, therefore, suggests that clinicians examine the ears of people who present with symptoms, and that surgeons swab patients' ears before performing otology procedures (ear surgeries).

Their results were published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.

The researchers looked at three patients who died as a result of Covid-19, two of whom had high SARS-CoV-2 loads in the mastoid (adjacent to the middle ear). They were a man in his 60s and a woman in her 80s.

While the virus was found only in the right middle ear of the woman, the team found the virus in the man’s left and right mastoids, as well as his left and right middle ears.

“This study confirms the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the middle ear and mastoid, ” said lead researcher Dr Katilyn Frazier.

READ MORE | Coronavirus and hearing loss: Researchers uncover another unusual symptom

Having a glass or two of wine a day brings you nowhere close to being an alcoholic, but how much do you have to consume to risk suffering from alcohol withdrawal?

South Africans have been very vocal after the alcohol ban was reinstituted to fight the spread of Covid-19 – catching many off guard without the opportunity to stock up.

And it's no secret that South Africans are some of the heaviest drinkers in the world.

According to the Food-Based Dietary Guideline for South Africa, only one unit of alcohol per day for a woman and a maximum two for a man is recommended, although it's better not to consume alcohol at all.

One drink is defined as:

- One bottle of beer

- A glass of wine

- One shot of hard liquor like whiskey, gin, rum and vodka

Heavy drinking, according to the US Centre for Disease Control, is defined as having eight or more drinks per week for women, and 15 or more drinks for men.

Binge drinking is when multiple drinks are consumed on one occasion, and according to the World Health Organisation, about 18.3% of the South African population partake in episodic binge drinking.

But how much do you need to be drinking to experience withdrawal if you're suddenly cut off?

READ MORE | Can moderate drinkers suffer from alcohol withdrawal during the coronavirus lockdown ban?

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

Image credit: Getty Images