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Infectious Diseases

Updated 30 March 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Another death in SA, nearly 1 000 Bloem church service contacts traced

Your latest coronavirus news: South Africa has recorded its second Covid-19 death; nearly 1 000 contacts related to a massive Bloemfontein church service have already been traced; and why Germany is bucking the trend in Europe.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 1 280.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Sunday reported that the country had experienced its second death from Covid-19.

"The 74 year old male had been in ICU and ventilation in a private hospital in Ladysmith.

"He had travelled to Kruger National Park with his family and came back with flu-like symptoms. He was confirmed to be Covid-19 positive on 27 March 2020.

"It has been reported to us that the deceased patient had an underlying skin cancer condition (melanoma), which had already complicated.

Gauteng continues to account for the most confirmed cases in the country, with 584.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

As South Africa takes drastic measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Free State health department has identified 1 259 people who came into contact with 480 people who attended a massive church service in Bloemfontein in March.

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe and MP Steve Swart, who have since tested positive for the novel coronavirus, also attended the same service.

Department spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said on Sunday that the department has, so far, reached 973 of the contacts and 67 tested positive.

Three of the people who tested positive were admitted to hospital, Mvambi said.

The 67 cases who tested positive were among 200 who experienced some symptoms that included coughing, sneezing, throat irritation and difficulty breathing.

The remaining 773 were asymptomatic.

The department said members of four other churches either attended the service, went to a conference or had some form of close contact with others while they were unaware that they had the virus

READ MORE | Health dept in massive tracing exercise after Bloem church service

Khayelitsha in the Western Cape has recorded its first positive coronavirus case, according to Premier Alan Winde's office, and the total number of positive cases in the province has climbed to 310.

Fourteen people have been hospitalised, including three in intensive care.

Winde's spokesperson Bianca Capazorio said each case, from Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain to Mossel Bay, were of concern to the government.

"The stats show us that this virus is spreading, reaching communities across our province," she said.

"These stats again demonstrate why abiding by this lockdown is so essential. If we are to #stopthespread, we must stay home, in our homes, and limit contact with other people. Coronavirus is very much here, and although we cannot stop its spread entirely, we have a window of opportunity to slow it down and we must embrace it," Capazorio said.

READ MORE | First coronavirus case in Khayelitsha as Western Cape tally climbs to 310

A WhatsApp voicenote which was widely spread in SA, and shared under the pretense that it was from a top expert, was supposed to just be a message of caution from a worried daughter, to her mother.

On Saturday the voicenote, which Health24 has now established was sent by an unidentified young doctor, had been circulating with an accompanying message claiming the voice was of a top expert at Groote Schuur hospital.

But the expert, Dr Diana Hardie, confirmed to Health24 that the voice on the recording was not hers. Groote Schuur Hospital further distanced itself from the voicenote, in a statement.

Health24 can confirm that the recording was not meant to be circulated, but was meant for the mother of the person who recorded it, only.

READ MORE | THAT WhatsApp voicenote wasn't meant to be shared - it was from a worried daughter to her mother

"High level" discussions are underway to allow for the sales of cigarettes during South Africa’s unprecedented 21-day Covid-19 lockdown, a well-placed source within the national government told Business Insider South Africa. 

The sale of cigarettes – and liquor – remain prohibited during the lockdown enforced in a bid to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa. 

On Sunday, reports suggested that the sale of cigarettes will now be allowed, as long as they are bought alongside other food items. But with the regulations still unchanged, that remains illegal, and there is no indication that the rules as they stand will not be enforced.

The regulations can, however, be changed at any time by simple publication in the Government Gazette – and that may happen soon.

The source said the South African government is reconsidering the regulations to allow for cigarette sales, predominantly to prevent underground sales of cigarette. 

The sale of liquor is not part of the discussion, and will at this point remain wholly prohibited, the source said. 

READ  MORE | ‘High level’ talks are now underway to allow cigarette sales during SA’s lockdown

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has extended the hours during which public transport services are allowed to operate to accommodate social grant recipients.

"Effective from tomorrow, 30 March 2020, until Friday, 3 April 2020, buses and taxis will be permitted to operate from 05:00 until 20:00 in order to cater to the transportation needs of society's most vulnerable.

The exercise of social distance by all those using public transport must be observed and enforced.  We will issue further directions in this regard," Mbalula said in a statement.

During the lockdown, public transport services are only allowed to operate between 05:00 and 09:00 and again from 16:00 to 20:00.

But the minister said several industry bodies and Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu made representations on the issue, following President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement that social grants would be paid from Monday.

"Having considered Minister Zulu's request and representations made by various industry bodies, including the taxi industry, I have decided to amend the public transport directions in order to accommodate grant beneficiaries," he said.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Public transport hours extended for social grant recipients

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.

Positive cases worldwide are now more than 715 000, while deaths are more than 33 800.

The United States, China, Italy, and Spain all have more than 80 000 cases.

Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France all have more than 2 500 deaths.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

The coronavirus is ravaging large parts of Europe, with Italy and Spain now the worst-hit countries in the world.

But to the north, Germany appears to be bucking the trend.

49 603 Germans had tested positive for the coronavirus as of 27 March, with 308 deaths, according to the German magazine Zeit. That means Germany has a death rate of 0.62%.

The German government officially puts the infection count at 42 288 with 253 deaths as of 8am. local time on 27 March. They are behind because each German state reports its own figures sporadically.

That rate is far below that of Spain, which is at 7.6%, China at 4.05%, and Italy, which is at 10.2%.

It suggests that Germany is doing something right that the others aren't.

Here's why Germany seems to be on top of its coronavirus outbreak, and why its able to do things like take in coronavirus patients from its struggling neighbours.

The most important factor contributing to the low death rate is that Germany appears to be that it is testing far more people than any other European country.

READ MORE | Germany has a low Covid-19 death rate - thanks largely to mass testing

The biggest reputational risk Facebook and other social media companies had expected in 2020 was fake news surrounding the US presidential election. Be it foreign or domestic in origin, the misinformation threat seemed familiar, perhaps even manageable.

The novel coronavirus, however, has opened up an entirely different problem: the life-endangering consequences of supposed cures, misleading claims, snake-oil sales pitches and conspiracy theories about the outbreak.

So far, AFP has debunked almost 200 rumours and myths about the virus, but experts say stronger action from tech companies is needed to stop misinformation and the scale at which it can be spread online.

READ MORE | Why the novel coronavirus became a social media nightmare

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections 

• Maintain social 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.

READ MORE: Coronavirus 101 

Image credit: Getty Images