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Infectious Diseases

12 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Cele vows booze crackdown, school talks 'ongoing', US deaths pass 20 000

Your latest coronavirus news: Police Minister Bheki Cele vows to crack down on illegal alcohol sales and looters; Sadtu says suggestions that school holidays may be scrapped for the remainder of the year are not concrete; and there are now more than 20 000 deaths in the US.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 2 028.

Another death has been recorded in the Western Cape - there are now 25 deaths in the country.

So far, 75 053 tests have been conducted.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Police Minister Bheki Cele has vowed to crack down on illegal alcohol sales and looters who have struck several times since the lockdown began.

Cele visited Paarl and Cape Town's northern suburbs on Saturday to inspect shopping precincts. 

In Mbekweni, Paarl, he was shown a liquor store which had been looted. 

He later reported this was one of 17 stores robbed since the lockdown kicked in, including the ban on the sale and transport of alcohol.

WATCH | 'Sober up, there are serious matters here': Cele cracks down on looters, illegal liquor sales

Suggestions that school holidays may be scrapped for the remainder of the year to make up for lost time are not concrete, says Sadtu general-secretary Mugwena Maluleke.

"There are many ideas floating around and we will be engaging with the education department on those ideas as well as sharing our own ideas," Maluleke told News24.

On Friday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said one proposal under consideration by the department was cancelling school holidays to regain time lost in the 2020 academic year.

Even before the lockdown started last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced schools would be closed to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. With the lockdown extended to 30 April, schools will have been closed for more than six weeks.

READ MORE | School holiday cancellation 'not concrete', says Sadtu

Two Cape Town police officers have been arrested for allegedly buying alcohol during the national lockdown. A supermarket manager and cashier were also arrested.

The incident took place in Delft on Thursday at around 11:00 when the two officers allegedly attempted to buy liquor to the value of R4 000.  

"Two police officers, a supermarket manager and a cashier were arrested following the purchase and sale of alcohol in Delft," said national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo.

The two officers are stationed at Strand police station and have been charged under the Disaster Management Act.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Two Cape Town cops busted for buying booze worth R4 000

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 Sunday morning, cases worldwide were more than 1.76 million, while deaths were more than 108 000.

Deaths in the United States were more than 20 000, with nearly 525 000 cases.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

We watched the case counts rise in China. Healthcare workers shared harrowing accounts from the frontlines as China built hospitals in a matter of days.

Doctors weren't sure how to treat this new coronavirus, and the Chinese government eventually locked down an estimated 50 million people to contain the disease.

But it took some world leaders months to take the threat seriously.

As death toll creeps higher every day, over one-third of the world has now been placed under lockdown, and countries are scrambling to halt the spread of Covid-19.

READ MORE | 8 times world leaders downplayed the coronavirus and put their countries at greater risk

Cheered by her doctors, 93-year-old Alye Gunduz was discharged from an Istanbul hospital after recovering from the novel coronavirus following 10 days of treatment.

Her recovery from the disease that is killing chiefly the old offered some hope to health workers at Istanbul's Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty hospital as they battle the outbreak, which risks hitting Turkey hard.

"It is promising because patients at this age and with chronic diseases are most of the time unable to recover because they are at highest risk from Covid-19," chief physician Zekayi Kutlubay told AFP.

"A 93-year-old woman walking out of intensive care sound and safe is inspiring for us as well as for other coronavirus patients at her age."

READ MORE | Turkey hospital sees hope as 93-year-old coronavirus patient discharged

For weeks, nursing homes and other senior facilities have struggled to stop the rapid spread of coronavirus among their elderly residents. 

Now, two separate reports show the contagion among nursing homes is far worse than the federal government's latest estimate.

The novel coronavirus has taken the lives of over 2,300 United States (US) nursing home residents and spread to over 2,100 senior facilities, according to a new tally reported by The Wall Street Journal. A separate NBC News report Friday found coronavirus outbreaks at nearly 2,500 senior facilities.

Those reports place the number of deaths linked to senior facilities far above the latest federal estimate. The federal government last estimated on March 30 that more than 400 nursing homes had been hit with Covid-19, meaning the new reports reflect a 500% increase since then.

READ MORE | Thousands of US nursing home patients have died of Covid-19 - far higher than federal reports

LATEST RESEARCH

A team of local scientists have successfully put together the first genetic fingerprint - or genome sequence - of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) found in South Africa.

Together with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the University of the Western Cape’s South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) cracked the code that could unlock the origins of the country’s outbreak, and help healthcare workers and government better track and trace the spread of the virus.

Spotlight spoke to Peter van Heusden, SANBI researcher and co-author of the new report on the sequence, and Dr Mushal Allam, a medical scientist with the NICD’s Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis, who worked on the sequencing, about what this accomplishment means for the future of South Africa’s fight against the Covid-19 virus. 

“It’s been very fulfilling to be able to use these skills and to try and proactively assist with the outbreak,” van Heusden said.

“This is a whole society problem that we have to face with every set of skills that we’ve got. It did feel really fulfilling that this training I’ve put myself through for several years was able to be used for something more than making a research paper.”

“I’ve been very actively networking with my colleagues around the continent and around the world to make sure information flows as quickly as possible, in fact as soon as this hit the radar screens in January, I was already talking to [Allam] asking when we are going to be able to sequence this thing,” he said. 

READ MORE | How scientists found the fingerprint behind South Africa’s Covid-19 virus

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.

READ MORE: Coronavirus 101 

Image credit: Getty Images