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Infectious Diseases

Updated 09 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: EC premier to push for booze ban, and R239m for Cuban medics

Your latest coronavirus news: The Eastern Cape premier will lobby to reinstate a liquor ban for his province; and more than R239m to be paid to Cuban medical specialists.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 50 879.

According to the latest update, 1 080 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 26 099 recoveries.

So far, 943 059 tests have been conducted, with 22 983 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane will lobby national government to reinstate a liquor ban under Level 3 lockdown for his province, due to fears that alcohol will harm the battle against Covid-19 infections.

Mabuyane will petition the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to have the ban on alcohol reintroduced in his province.

Speaking to News24 on Monday, Mabuyane said the province had seen a surge in alcohol-related incidents since the country moved to Level 3.

"We had high incidents on our roads, and we had a lot of reports of gender-based violence on the basis that people were drunk. It is really not about people enjoying themselves. It has contributed to moral decay. It has really eroded our societal moral fibre," he claimed.

Mabuyane said his provincial command council had also seen a strain on the public health system. He added that, to avoid the spread of the virus, the government needed to be extra cautious.

Since the resumption of alcohol, provincial reports from 1 June until 7 June also indicated a surge in people contravening lockdown regulations, he said.

READ MORE | Booze ban: Mabuyane to push for alcohol ban in the Eastern Cape

The South African government will pay more than R239 million in salaries for the 187 members of the Cuban medical brigade, who, according to Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, are specialists in areas in which South Africa has shortages.

DA MP Siviwe Gwarube asked for more information on the Cuban doctors, who arrived in South Africa to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic amid much fanfare on 27 April.

"To date, the Republic of Cuba has availed 187 medical specialists, who will be assisting South Africa in the response to Covid-19," reads Mkhize's response.

He added that they are specialists in areas that the country is unable to produce enough capacity in.

READ MORE | R239 million in salaries - this is what SA will have to pay the Cuban medical brigade

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi announced that 38 schools in the province have reported Covid-19 cases.

Lesufi was updating the media in Midrand on the first day of the reopening of schools on Monday afternoon.

He also said 39 pupils and teachers have tested positive.

"Today only, we received 38 new cases that demand investigations. The 38 new cases that demand investigation is in the process of tracing those that were in contact with those that have tested positive," he said.

READ MORE | 38 Gauteng schools have reported Covid-19 cases, says Lesufi

Pharmaceutical retailer Dis-Chem, along with a couple of partners, is offering free Covid-19 testing to South Africans in need.

There is currently a national backlog of Covid-19 testing, and as a result, the Western Cape government has now decided not to test people aged 55 or younger in the Cape Town metro if they have no underlying conditions.

The retailer Dis-Chem says it has partnered with the Solidarity Fund to offer the testing.

You first have to apply for the test. To qualify, applicants can't be a member of a medical scheme nor be employed.

Other criteria may include whether the person is a pensioner, disabled or orphaned.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Dis-Chem may now test you for free - if you’re unemployed or without medical aid

The European Aviation Safety Agency has placed all airports in the Western Cape on its global alert list to ensure an additional layer of protection for passengers and aircrew.

The agency is responsible for monitoring civil aviation safety and carries out certification, regulation and standardisation.

No other airports in South Africa have been placed on this list and the only other country in Africa on the list is Egypt, for which all airports are listed.

The Western Cape has had the most recorded Covid-19 deaths and infections in the country, most of which are concentrated in Cape Town. Lockdown Level 3 allows for some domestic business travel, and Cape Town International Airport is one of four SA airports allowed to operate on a commercial basis.

READ MORE | Western Cape airports placed on international coronavirus alert list

While there is still no indication of when gyms will be allowed to open their doors in South Africa, Virgin Active is in the final stages of readying its clubs for when it gets government approval.

When its clubs do re-open, its more than 700 000 members in South Africa will have to book their sessions before coming to the gym.

The company has also taken other steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including strict physical distancing and investing in ventilation equipment that ensures that 100% of the air in its gyms is replaced within nine minutes.

Virgin Active has not deducted member debit orders during lockdown in South Africa, which is the last of its eight markets that will remain closed.

READ MORE | TAKE A LOOK: How Virgin Active gyms will change - no sweat towels and you have to book your spot

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.

Late on DAY night, positive cases worldwide were NUMBER, while deaths were NUMBER.

The United States had the most cases in the world - NUMBER, as well as the most deaths - NUMBER.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

In a war-ravaged country now battling coronavirus, one Yemeni doctor is dispensing medical advice from his car, gathering a large social media following along the way.

"Stop me if you need a medical consultation," reads a large sticker on the rear window of Sami Yahya al-Hajj's four-wheel drive, alongside a cartoon figure of the bearded doctor wearing his square spectacles.

As he offers diagnoses and prescriptions to the poor, the doctor's phone chirps with messages and calls from patients who cough and splutter as they explain their ailments.

Hajj said he started giving free consultations via social media but then wanted to reach to those without access to such technology.

READ MORE | 'Stop me if you need a doctor': Yemen medic treats poor from his car

LATEST RESEARCH

Cape Town scientists are hoping that a new study involving a common tuberculosis (TB) vaccine will show if it can help protect people at a high risk of Covid-19 from the disease and tell us more about how our immune system works.

But the trial has been criticised for allegedly failing to provide participants - many of whom are healthcare workers - with masks and gloves.

In May, the Cape Town clinical research organisation TASK began testing whether a TB jab - the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine that is usually given to newborns - could help protect hospital workers such as doctors, nurses, security guards and administration staff against serious Covid-19 disease.

As part of the 500-person trial in Cape Town’s Tygerberg Hospital, about half of volunteers will receive the shot while the other 50% are given a placebo shot of simple saline solution. After a year, scientists will compare the two groups to see if cases of Covid-19 were lower or milder in the group that got the BCG shot.

READ MORE | Cape Town Covid-19 vaccine trial comes under fire from activists

It is clear that the new coronavirus is affecting everyone around the world. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre indicates that more than 6.6 million people have been infected and Covid-19 has claimed the lives of over 400 000 people globally. Making matters worse, it presents a threat to psychological health as well as physical health.

Linked to this is the fact that many countries, including South Africa, are facing the additional threat of economic instability as millions of people have lost their jobs since the lockdowns started. The New York Times reports that the ultimate impact of the virus’s mental toll, according to some experts, may show up in countries' suicide rates in 2020 and beyond.

Before the national lockdown was implemented on March 27, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) averaged around 600 calls per day, Cassey Chambers, SADAG’s operations director, told Health24.

However, during the course of the lockdown, in April alone, the organisation received more than double this number per day.

READ MORE | Mental health effects of Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown - and concern over suicide risk

We've all been seeing temperature sensors at stores, schools and workplaces, but soon we might be doing a smell test as well.

Last month, researchers and doctors started reporting that patients infected with Covid-19 are experiencing a loss of smell and taste – called anosmia and ageusia respectively – without having a runny nose, especially in patients with milder or no symptoms.

Now researchers from King’s College London have asked for this specific symptom to be used more effectively in the screening process for Covid-19.

According to a letter published in The Lancet, they believe it might be an even better indicator of the disease than the more commonly known fever and persistent cough.

READ MORE | Loss of smell, taste - researchers think these symptoms may help better screen for Covid-19

Numerous innovative mobile apps are playing a big role in helping with the Covid-19 response, for example for self-screening or contact tracing. One of the latest apps, created by NYU College of Dentistry, can determine how severe Covid-19 cases are.

Research assessing the app through studying patients was published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

The app uses artificial intelligence (AI) to assess a person’s risk factors and key biomarkers from blood tests. It then produces a severity score which can determine how sick a Covid-positive patient is or may become – something that current diagnostic tests to detect whether someone is infected by the virus cannot do.

In their paper, the team of 15 researchers wrote about the need for a Covid-19 disease severity test that can help to prioritise care and resources for patients at higher risk of death.

READ MORE | An app that determines the severity of Covid-19 may soon be available

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