Infectious Diseases

19 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Attempt to steal PPE leads to shootout, and Cosas firm on schools stance

Your latest coronavirus news: An attempt to steal PPE leads to deadly shootout; and Cosas will not back down on the call to shut down schools.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 350 879.

According to the latest update, 4 948 of deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 182 230 recoveries.

So far, 2 422 741 tests have been conducted, with 49 688 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

An attempt to steal personal protective equipment from OR Tambo International Airport's cargo area on Saturday left two people dead and several injured, including one civilian, according to the police.

In a statement on Saturday, police spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili said seven suspects had been arrested and five firearms were recovered following a shootout between law enforcement and the suspects after a high-speed car chase.

When the police caught the suspects, they found they had attempted to steal personal protective equipment, including masks, as well as three crates of cellphones.

"The police and airport security's swift response to the robbery is proof of the effective collaborative security measures that have been put in place at the airport.

READ MORE | Attempt to steal PPE from OR Tambo leads to deadly shootout

Some may be arguing for and against the closure of the country's schools in the face of rapidly increasing Covid-19 infections, but the Congress for South African Students (Cosas) is adamant that a national shutdown is the only way to go.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also cautioned against the opening of schools in regions where local transmissions were not under control.

According to Cosas, the ANC want schools to remain open “for the sake of their business arrangements.” Cosas also stated that the academic year will not necessarily be forfeited if schools were to shut down.

READ MORE | Q&A with Cosas: Some ANC leaders want schools open for 'their own business arrangements'

As the sale of tobacco is still prohibited in South Africa, police confiscated liquid tobacco worth an estimated R360 000 after it was couriered from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape in alleged contravention of lockdown regulations relating to tobacco products.

"It is alleged that on Thursday at about 14:00, [a courier] company received a package from Cape Town. It is further alleged that a similar package was received for the same person earlier in the week and the suspicious behaviour of the recipient caught the attention of the company," police spokesperson colonel Priscilla Naidu said.

When the second package arrived, the courier company notified the police and the package was opened. Inside, they found 30 boxes each containing 120 packets of various flavours of hookah pipe liquid tobacco.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Liquid tobacco worth R360K confiscated after arriving via courier in PE

There is no direct evidence that links smoking with severe Covid-19 cases. However, given tobacco's impact on the lungs, this could be possible, according to Professor Lucille Blumberg, deputy director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

“There is no direct and very good information or good studies to link smoking with severe Covid-19, but if [you] consider chronic lung illness and smoking and chronic lung problems are very closely associated, there must be some sort of link,” Blumberg said.

She added that given the evidence for smoking and lung disease, "it's not a good idea."

“We can't get good information because unfortunately if you ask somebody who is in hospital waiting for oxygen, 'Do you smoke?', the answer is always 'No' or 'I stopped', but often they stopped yesterday.”

READ MORE | “No direct evidence” linking smoking with Covid-19, but not a good idea, says NICD director


Cases update:

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

On Saturday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 14.1 million, while deaths were more than 598 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 3.6 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 140 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said 35 million Iranians may contract the coronavirus as the country still did not have herd immunity although a quarter of the population may be infected.

"We have to consider the possibility that 30 to 35 million more may face infection."

Iran experienced a resurgence in cases after a two-month low in May.

Iran has been struggling to contain the Middle East's worst virus outbreak since announcing its first cases in mid-February.

READ MORE | Rouhani says 35 million may contract coronavirus


Findings from a large survey reveal shocking statistics about the effects of South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown on child and household hunger.

The study, called the National Income Dynamics Study: Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM), includes data from roughly 7 000 respondents across the country who were asked a series of questions telephonically about hunger, health and employment between May and June. 

Nearly half (47%) of all survey respondents reported running out of money for food in April, the first month of the country’s hard lockdown. Adding to this, 15% of respondents said that a child in the household had gone hungry in the last week (prior to the survey interview). In households with children, 8% of respondents reported frequent hunger, which is defined as three or more days per week. 

While the NIDS-CRAM findings may paint a grim picture for the immediate future of South Africa’s children, authors’ recommendations suggest a way forward that, if implemented, may greatly improve the situation. 

These recommendations are included in papers published today alongside the release of the survey data.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Solutions proposed as shocking new child hunger numbers revealed

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