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Infectious Diseases

11 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Alcohol sales ban back in spotlight, and disaster for hunger hotspots

The alcohol sales ban is back in the spotlight amid complaints to government's coronavirus council; and Covid-19 is deepening the disaster in the world's hunger hotspots.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 250 687.

According to the latest update, 3 860 of deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 118 232 recoveries.

So far, more than 2 million tests have been conducted, with 56 663 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The increase in the number of alcohol-related trauma cases and its impact on the health system has been tabled before the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said this on Friday during a visit to Tshwane District Hospital as Gauteng's Covid-19 cases increased sharply.

Mkhize said the decision to table the issue before the NCCC followed a stark increase in alcohol-related trauma cases after the ban on the sale of alcohol was lifted on 1 June when Level 3 lockdown regulations came into effect.

"When there was a lockdown, it was quite clear that casualty departments did not have a lot of pressure," Mkhize said.  

As a result, there were more hospital beds and less pressure on the health system, including intensive care units, the minister added. 

READ MORE | Alcohol sales ban back in the spotlight amid complaints to govt's coronavirus command council

Covid-19 is deepening the disaster in the world's hunger hotspots and creating new epicentres of hunger worldwide, with South Africa joining a list of new crisis areas, according to a new briefing by Oxfam on Thursday.

The organisation estimates that by the end of the year, 12 000 people across the globe could die each day from hunger linked to Covid-19.

p>In addition to the existing top hunger hotspots - namely Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Venezuela, the West African Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Haiti - which together account for 65% of people facing crisis level hunger globally - new hunger hotspots, including SA, are also emerging, the non-profit said.

income countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil are experiencing rapidly rising levels of hunger as millions of people that were just about managing have been tipped over the edge by the pandemic," Oxfam said in a document dated 9 July 2020.

Oxfam is not alone in its concern. Also on Thursday, the Foundation for Human Rights said a survey it conducted among 127 community-based advice offices during Level 4 and 5 of South Africa's lockdown showed the "most serious implication" felt by respondents was hunger.

READ MORE | Thousands may die daily from hunger due to Covid-19 - and SA is a new hotspot

A cheap Covid-19 rapid antibody test, which will cost less than R300 a unit, has been approved for use in South Africa - but it is not yet available privately or to the general public.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has given the first licence to supply the rapid antibody test in South Africa to Johannesburg-based company Tip Top Trade. 

ntibody testing has been described as a possible “missing weapon” in the fight against Covid-19 by several leading doctors - who also criticised the SAHPRA for being “overly cautious” in its rollout of the tests in the country.

Unlike the widely-used reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, or PCR tests, antibody tests can help people figure out if they've had the novel coronavirus in the past. 

People who've been infected with Covid-19 create antibodies to fight off infections like the coronavirus, and those antibodies remain in the blood - even after the virus is gone.

READ MORE | South Africa’s first approved Covid-19 antibody test will cost less than R300

Dis-Chem has decided to close its Covid-19 testing facilities “for the foreseeable future” as the company struggles with a backlog in getting test results from the testing labs.

“The unanticipated increase in infections across the country, particularly in Gauteng has put severe pressure on testing labs, which has impacted on the turnaround time for Dis-Chem’s test results,” a spokesperson said.

Gauteng has seen its infections more than triple in just two weeks.

“We are constantly following up with the various laboratories, but they are being forced to prioritise urgent hospital tests. 

The number of labs that can do the tests is limited and we are spreading our load across as many as possible.

Another factor affecting the speed of testing and obtaining results is the reduced number of flights around the country, so transporting tests to the labs from outlying cities and other remote stations is delayed,” says Lizeth Kruger, Dis-Chem’s national clinic manager.

READ MORE | Dis-Chem stops Covid-19 testing amid big backlog, ‘unanticipated’ spike in Gauteng

The Mpumalanga provincial leadership of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) on Friday accused the provincial health department of not sufficiently protecting its frontline workers after a nurse from KwaMhlanga Hospital died of Covid-19.

Provincial secretary of Nehawu, Welcome Mnisi, told News24 the nurse contracted Covid-19 on duty at KwaMhlanga Hospital and was transferred to Witbank Tertiary Hospital, where she died on 3 July. He said she was buried on Monday this week.

"That woman was a breadwinner in her family and she is gone now," said Mnisi.

"Her family no longer has a breadwinner. Many other health workers at other hospitals and clinics throughout the province are also not safe. They fear for their lives.

READ MORE | Nehawu furious after nurse dies of Covid-19: 'She was a breadwinner and she is gone now'

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 Friday night, positive cases worldwide were over 12.3 million, while deaths were more than 550 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world -  more than 3.1 million cases, as well as the most deaths - more than 133 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

China temporarily banned food imports from three Ecuadorian companies after detecting coronavirus on packaging for frozen shrimp, following fresh scrutiny on refrigerated goods after a recent disease outbreak in Beijing.

Samples taken from the packaging of Whiteleg shrimp at the port cities of Dalian and Xiamen tested positive for the virus, General Administration of Customs official Bi Kexin told a press conference.

Tests on samples from inside the packaging and the shrimp itself returned negative, however.

The customs authority said it was temporarily blocking imports from the three Ecuadorean companies whose products had tested positive.

READ MORE | Covid-19: China bans some food imports after virus detected on shrimp

LATEST RESEARCH

On 17 June 2020, it was announced that restaurants were permitted to serve sit-down patrons again during an advanced level of stage 3 lockdown in South Africa.

this news came as a great relief for cash-strapped businesses, many people are still reluctant to have a sit-down meal at a restaurant, and have doubts whether it’s safe to do so.

But, what should you know? Are there risks, and are there ways you can lower your risk for Covid-19 infection at restaurants?

With restaurants are stepping up to the plate, ensuring that mandatory safety regulations such as sanitisers, masks, proper ventilation and physical distancing are in place, it’s important to know that no amount of safety measures will completely eradicate the possibility of Covid-19 infection.

According to Eleanor J. Murray, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health in Massachusetts, the safety measures you see at restaurants are likely to decrease the risk, but there is no way that you can guarantee that there will be no infection.

READ MORE | How to reduce your risk of contracting Covid-19 in a restaurant

If you feel like you’ve been losing all sense of time during lockdown, and that life has become one huge blur, you’re not alone. There’s actually a psychological explanation for this.

As psychologist Sherry Benton, professor emeritus at the University of Florida told HuffPost: “Anytime we have a big change in routine, this happens. We are accustomed to a certain amount of structure to our days. Moving to working from home disrupts the structure.”

Without this structure, it goes without saying that our days start to feel like they've become merged into one, making it hard to keep track of dates. Additionally, working from home alongside home-schooling and other responsibilities, we constantly need to multitask – which begs the question: Is it possible to "switch off" and recharge during lockdown?v

Technology has quickly become an important part of every facet of our lives, be it in our work or personal space. Without a break from our devices, we might feel at a loss. But effectively disconnecting from this in order to maintain a good headspace is possible, writes technology writer, Sun Sun Lim in Nature. He suggests listing all the online and phone notifications you receive in a day, be it news notifications, WhatsApp messages, or emails.

READ MORE | Is it possible to ‘switch off’ work mode during lockdown?

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