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Infectious Diseases

Updated 04 August 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Call for 'devastating' booze ban to be lifted, and cigarettes mystery

The alcohol industry calls for lifting of the 'devastating' booze ban; and Namibia should have a huge pile of cigarettes - mysteriously, they are nowhere to be found.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 516 862.

According to the latest update, 8 539 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 358 037 recoveries.

So far, more than 3.05 million tests have been conducted, with 21 916 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The alcohol industry has welcomed the call by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) for government to start preparing for the lifting of the ban on the sale of alcohol.

The decision recognises that there was no immediate severe pressure on hospital beds set aside for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

The call was made by SAMRC president Dr Glenda Gray and Professor Charles Parry, director of the Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Research Unit of the SAMRC during an interview with Michael Avery of Business Day TV on Friday.

Gray and Parry acknowledged that the anticipated excessive pressure on hospitals as a result of a surge in Covid-19 infection was not materialising.

READ MORE | Alcohol industry calls for lifting of 'devastating' booze ban

Andre le Roux, a public relations specialist in Windhoek, admits he’s a “a big smoker”. He’s particularly fond of smoking Peter Stuyvesant, a brand manufactured in South Africa by British American Tobacco.

However, over the last few months, he’s had trouble getting hold of Peter Stuyvesant.

“Certain types are sold out at places like Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar and [Namibian retailer] Woermann Brock,” he says. “I’ve placed my family, friends and colleagues on high alert, and asked them to immediately buy if they find any.”

It’s particularly brands made in SA, or popular here, like Peter Stuyvesant, Pall Mall, Dunhill, and Rothmans that are mysteriously hard to find.

READ MORE | Namibia should have a huge pile of cigarettes. Mysteriously, they are nowhere to be found.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said while not all business between the state and the family members or friends of politicians was corrupt, it undermined public confidence and created a perception of nepotism and abuse.

In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa again made corruption his focus, saying profiteering during a state of disaster was a heinous crime.

"Attempting to profit from a disaster that is claiming the lives of our people every day is the action of scavengers. It is like a pack of hyenas circling wounded prey."

The president added that the issue was a real problem.

"While everyone in South Africa has a right to engage in business activities, we are faced with the real problem of families and friends of political office-bearers or public servants receiving contracts from the state. Not all conduct of this sort is necessarily criminal, but it does contribute to a perception and a culture of nepotism, favouritism and abuse.

READ MORE | Politicians' friends, family doing business with the state undermines public confidence - Ramaphosa

When the elevator bell dinged in the foyer of a private hospital in Athlone, Cape Town, the doors slid open, but the carriage was empty.

Leanne Lakay, 37, was puzzled. She was expecting to see a nurse or doctor in the lift.

Lakay had come to the hospital to fetch her mother, Valerie’s, belongings. The 65-year-old had passed away from Covid-19 at the hospital a few days earlier, in June. The disease, caused by SARS-CoV-2, has claimed more than 8 000 lives in South Africa.

Leanne pushed her mom into the private facility in a wheelchair after she collapsed at home and couldn’t get up again. Her mom had diabetes — the most common underlying condition that leads to COVID-related deaths in the Western Cape — and her legs often caused her pain, but this was far worse than usual, and she was feverish.

“Please don’t leave me here,” Valerie pleaded, but her daughter explained that the doctors could help her much better than the family could at home.

READ MORE | How to save a life: Easing grief from inside Covid ICUs

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.

Early on Tuesday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 18.16 million, while deaths were close to 691 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - almost 4.7 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 155 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Authorities in Vietnam say the new strain of coronavirus responsible for the recent spike in infections is three times more contagious than its predecessor.

Nguyen Thanh Long, the country's health minister, said on Sunday that those infected with the new strain infect between five and six people on average, Reuters reported.

In contrast, those infected with with the original strain of Covid-19, which arrived in Vietnam in late January, infect on average between 1.8 and 2.2 people, he said.

While the strain is new in Vietnam, it has been seen before in Bangladesh, Britain and Ireland, according to Vietnamese scientists.

The latest cases, which were first found on July 25, marked the end of a 99-day streak without any new cases.

READ MORE | Vietnam says its new strain of coronavirus is three times more contagious

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson could ask millions of people in England to stay at home, bar people from traveling across the country, and quarantine holiday-makers under measures being considered to prevent a new wave of coronavirus infections.

The UK government is trying to identify options to contain the coronavirus that do not involve reimposing a nationwide lockdown, which the prime minister last week called a "nuclear deterrent" he wanted to avoid using.

The number of coronavirus cases in the UK started to rise quickly again last week, prompting the government to impose restrictions on about 4.5 million people in certain parts of Northern England and pause the nationwide easing of other lockdown measures.

Downing Street is instead considering a series of "flexible" lockdown options, which could be rolled out either in areas where infections are spiking or - if cases begin to rise too quickly across England - nationwide, The Times of London reported.

READ MORE | UK could ban domestic travel and tell millions to stay home as infections keep rising

LATEST RESEARCH

How did the coronavirus go from an outbreak in a single Chinese city to a global pandemic?

It turns out that it took travellers from only three countries to spread the highly contagious Covid-19 across most of the world.

Researchers analysed travel patterns of early confirmed cases outside of China to determine the route the virus took around the world.

They used information collected from 1 200 cases from 68 affected countries during the pre-pandemic period from 31 December, 2019, to 10 March, 2020.

"We analysed reported travel to affected countries among the first cases reported from each country outside mainland China, demographic and exposure characteristics among cases with age or gender information, and cluster frequencies and sizes by transmission settings," wrote the researchers.

READ MORE | How travel to 3 countries spread Covid-19 all over the world

Researchers have found certain immune system markers that could predict the severity of Covid-19.

Publishing their findings in Nature, they analysed 113 Covid-19 patients with moderate and severe illness to find out how their immune systems responded to the disease.

These systems were analysed at different intervals to map the progress of the disease and what changes it caused in the patients' immune systems through the various phases.

One major indicator was elevated cytokines and chemokines, which led to worse outcomes for the severely infected patients, including death.

Cytokines are proteins that are secreted by cells to help coordinate immune response, while chemokines are smaller versions of these proteins.

READ MORE | Immune system markers could predict severity of Covid-19

Speaking at the National Covid-19 virtual conference that focused on health innovations and technologies, and social and economic sustainability during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel reported on the progress of the National Ventilator Project (NVP), an initiative undertaken by the government.

Patel explained that in March, when the virus reached South African shores, the country had no local manufacturing capacity for ventilators, which was concerning as the demand for ventilators quickly surged.

This led to the start of the NVP, whereby South African-designed and manufactured ventilators could be created. According to Patel, these are currently being rolled off the production line.

“Over the next month, we expect many thousands of non-invasive ventilators to be delivered to hospitals and medical facilities across the country, brought together through South African ingenuity and by South African hands,” he said.

PICS | This is what the locally built, non-invasive Covid-19 ventilator looks like

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