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Infectious Diseases

Updated 20 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Court action over cigarette sales, prisons problem, and a lifesaving 'box'

Your latest coronavirus news: Cigarette manufacturing body going to court over lockdown sales ban; concerns over coronavirus infections in prisons; and local doctors design a virus 'box' to protect healthcare workers from Covid-19 patients.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 3 034.

The latest recorded deaths in the country is 52.

So far, 108 021 tests have been conducted.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has supported the recent banning of sales of cigarettes and alcohol during the lockdown, as they had a negative impact on the health of people who had tested positive for coronavirus.

So far, cigarettes and alcohol sales have been temporarily banned in the country to assist government in curbing the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

To date, a total number of 3 034 people have tested positive in 108 021 tests conducted, and two more deaths have been recorded.

The number of deaths has increased to 52.

READ MORE| Lockdown: Mkhize gives full support to cigarette, alcohol ban

As South Africans deal with life under lockdown in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, government's ban on alcohol sales as part of the regulations has been one of the major talking points.

Many a South African might have found him or herself relating to American singer Tom Waits when he crooned: "I don’t have a drinking problem, except when I can't find a drink."

Is it even legal to ban alcohol sales?

Yes, the Disaster Management Act explicitly states that the sale of alcohol can also be suspended or limited once a state of disaster has been declared.

READ MORE | SA's battle of the booze explained

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) will be approaching the courts to have the ban on the sale of cigarettes under the national lockdown lifted.

In a statement, the organisation said it had been in consultation with its legal team and had taken a decision to pursue court action.

"Over the last few days, we have been consulting with our legal team and we have come to the decision to approach the courts for the appropriate relief, vis-à-vis the ban on the sale of cigarettes. This decision was not taken lightly and we had hoped that a logical solution in the best interests of all concerned would be arrived at without the need for litigation," FITA chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said.

The ban had not stopped people from buying cigarettes during the lockdown period and had instead resulted in a number of economic and social concerns, he added. FITA is now calling for the distribution and sale of cigarettes to resume at retail stores, spaza shops and filling stations.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Tobacco association to challenge cigarette ban in court

The result came back from the prison official's coronavirus test: Positive.

But it was already too late. The virus had already invaded her workplace, and was cutting a swathe through prisoners and staff alike.

Over the past two weeks, 56 inmates and 31 workers at the correctional facility in East London have been diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease.

"This is a ticking time bomb," said Ayanda Botha, whose nephew is serving a 10-year term at the overcrowded jail in the Eastern Cape.

"There is no physical distances in prisons, none at all," he told AFP. "So how do you expect to contain the spread?"

READ MORE | SA prisons scramble to isolate Covid-19 cases as infections spread

The May/June matric exam rewrites have been postponed by the Department of Basic Education.

The department announced that the Amended Senior Certificate (old matric) and National Senior Certificate Examination, which were scheduled to start on 4 May, would be postponed due to the national lockdown.

The exams will now take place in November.

The exams were to be written by more than 350 000 part-time candidates. This includes pupils who did not meet the pass requirements in the 2019 final exams, as well as those who had wanted to rewrite to improve their marks.

READ MORE | Coronavirus: Matric exam rewrites postponed to November because of lockdown

"I worry a lot about them catching coronavirus," says Nozakuthini Batyi. "I make my kids stay in my yard or lie in bed throughout the day."

To obey lockdown regulations, Batyi tries to keep her family inside her corrugated iron shack in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, GroundUp reports.

As a means to ensure her kids stay indoors, she makes them do house chores and school work. "I instruct my kids to scrub the floor, wash the dishes and do laundry to keep them too busy to loiter around," she says.

Batyi moved her family to the Empolweni informal settlement, located on City-owned land in September last year. Previously, she rented a shack in Section 32, Makhaza, until she broke up with her boyfriend.

READ MORE | Coronavirus: How a Cape Town mom copes under lockdown without a toilet or water

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, positive cases worldwide were more more than 2 310 000, while deaths are more than 158 000.

The United States had the most cases - more than 726 000, and the most deaths - more nearly 38 000.

Two other countries ad more than 20 000 deaths - Italy, and Spain.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the world, some countries' efforts to slow the spread of infection that have been more successful than others.

Both Australia and New Zealand have reported low numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths, compared to other major industrialised countries. As of Friday local time, Australia has reported 6,462 coronavirus cases and 63 deaths, while New Zealand has recorded 1,401 cases and only nine deaths.

The countries have been hailed for their early mitigation efforts to curb the spread of disease, which has been linked to their smaller-than-average number of cases and deaths among Western nations.

Experts say that early national lockdown efforts, good public adherence to the rules, and widespread testing capabilities may have prevented Australia and New Zealand from being overwhelmed with a wave of infections, similar to what is being seen in hard-hit countries like Italy and the United States.

READ MORE | Experts say Australia and New Zealand are examples on how to slow Covid-19

US President Donald Trump said on that China's coronavirus deaths were "far higher" than it has admitted after the toll in the city where the pandemic originated was revised up by 50%.

Global criticism is mounting against China over its management of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 145 000 people worldwide and hammered the global economy since it first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year.

More than half of humanity - 4.5 billion people - are confined to their homes as governments scramble to contain the virus's death march across the globe.

World leaders are now looking at when - and how - to ease widespread confinement measures to revive an economy battered by what the International Monetary Fund calls the "Great Lockdown"

READ MORE | Trump says China virus deaths 'far higher' after Wuhan toll revised up

LATEST RESEARCH

Eyes narrowed in focus behind her face shield, doctor Jana Du Plessis kept a steady hand as she inserted a tube down the throat of a dummy, working through the lid of a plexiglass box.

Du Plessis, a doctor at Johannesburg's Charlotte Maxeke public hospital, practised moving around a newly-designed isolation device to protect healthcare workers from coronavirus patients.

The "intubox" is the brainchild of four local doctors inspired by a similar "aerosol box" used in Taiwan for sedated and intubated patients.

The South Africans added holes to the original design as well as covers for the openings, creating a protective, transparent but accessible box intended to shield workers from dangerous respiratory droplets.

"This box will create a seal around the patient so that whatever further procedures are needed will happen inside the box," she explained, manoeuvering tubes and drips through circular side flaps.

Doctors across South Africa are bracing for a potential surge in critically-ill patients as the number of infections continues to rise.

WATCH | SA doctors design a virus 'box' to protect healthcare workers against infection

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