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Infectious Diseases

Updated 07 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Gauteng govt looking at stricter measures; and court rules on preschools

The Gauteng government has not asked, and will not ask, for the Level 4 or 5 lockdown to be brought back; and the Gauteng High Court has ruled on private preschools.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 205 721.

According to the latest update, 3 310 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 97 848 recoveries.

So far, more than 1.86 million tests have been conducted, with 33 950 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The Gauteng government says it's ready to deal with the expected increase in coronavirus cases and it has not asked the national government to enforce a hard lockdown in the province.

It is, however, asking for stricter measures to be considered, including limited hours for the sale of alcohol and the prohibition of unnecessary social gatherings.

The provincial government's head of communications Thabo Masebe said it has not asked, and will not ask, for the Level 4 or 5 lockdown to be brought back.

Premier David Makhura's cabinet met over the weekend to discuss its approach to Covid-19.

The province's health system has been under pressure as the number of cases continues to grow. Police stations have also been affected as officers contracted the virus.

Masebe said the province, which is the country's economic hub, fully supported the National Coronavirus Command Council's (NCCC) approach to the phased reopening of the economy and schools.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Gauteng not looking at a hard lockdown, but rather stricter measures

All private preschools and early childhood development centres (ECD) may open with immediate effect, if they can do so safely, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has ruled.

The case had been brought by trade union Solidarity's Occupational Guild for Social Workers and their School Support Centre (SCC) against the Department of Social Development regarding the reopening of private nursery schools.

Judge Hans Fabricius on Monday ordered that all private preschool institutions offering early childhood development services (Grade R and lower) are entitled to reopen immediately.

Fabricius declared a decision by the Department of Social Development that private nursery schools remain closed under Level 3 of the coronavirus lockdown unlawful and unconstitutional.

He ordered Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, the first respondent, to pay the costs of all the applicants.

READ MORE | All private preschools may open immediately, court rules

Due to a high number of Covid-19 cases at schools, the Eastern Cape education department has postponed the return date for pupils in Grades R, 6 and 11.

The department confirmed on Monday that pupils in Grades R, 6 and 11, who were meant to return on Monday, would head back on 20 July instead.

In a circular, which was dated 5 July and addressed to all principals, education superintendent-general Themba Kojana said: "The increase in the number of infections has again necessitated the education sector to review its plans for the phasing in of grades."

Pupils in Grades 4, 9 and 10 will return on 27 July, those in Grades 5 and 8 will return on 3 August and pupils in Grades 2 and 1 will return on 10 August.

Kojana added: "This has been considered on various levels by all the roleplayers, including stakeholders, the heads of...all education departments, and the Council of Education Ministers, comprising all the Members of the Executive Councils of the departments of education."

READ MORE | Back to school: Eastern Cape postpones return of Grades R, 6 and 11 as Covid-19 cases rise

Permitting all activities that arguably affect or give full effect to various rights in the Bill of Rights would collapse the national lockdown.

That's according to the Presidency's director-general Cassius Lubisi, who defended government's decision to prohibit the re-opening of gyms and other fitness facilities under Level 3 lockdown after the United Gym and Fitness Facilities took government to court challenge the decision.

In his answering affidavit, Lubisi argued: "Regrettably, it is impossible to craft regulations that reduce the risk of transmission at any given point in time to acceptable levels without permitting some public activities and refusing other activities that may appear similarly important. As such, lines that may appear arbitrary between one activity and another activity must be drawn to achieve an acceptably low level of transmission."

Rudolph van der Westhuizen, chairperson of United Gyms, filed an urgent interim court application in the Western Cape High Court seeking an order to temporarily include gyms (health and fitness clubs) in the amended regulations under levels 3, 2 and 1 of the national lockdown, as well as to reopen the facilities under strict health protocols.

READ MORE | Presidency defends lockdown in case against gym owners

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 Monday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 11.52 million, while deaths were more than 535 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 2.91 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 130 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

US coronavirus deaths topped 130 000 on Monday amid a surge in Covid-19 cases that has put President Donald Trump's handling of the crisis under the microscope and derailed efforts to restart the economy.

The overall rate of increase in US deaths has continued to trend downward despite case numbers surging to record levels in recent days, but health experts warn that fatalities are a lagging indicator, showing up weeks or even months after cases rise.

At least five states have already bucked the downward trend in the death rate, according to a Reuters analysis. Arizona had 449 deaths in the last two weeks of June, up from 259 deaths in the first two weeks of the month. The state posted a 300% rise in cases over the full month, the most in the country.

Nationally, cases are approaching 3 million, the highest tally in the world and double the infections reported in the second most-affected nation Brazil.

READ MORE | Covid-19: US deaths toll surges past 130 000 - tally

LATEST RESEARCH

As Covid-19 numbers are increasing around the world, many nations have made the use of face masks mandatory in public spaces.

And while the use of face masks is recommended around the world, and the World Health Organization has updated its guidelines on the use of face masks, there are still no standard regulations for fabric face masks for non-medical use.

However, a new study from Florida Atlantic, published in the journal Physical of Fluids, investigated different types of fabrics and constructions to see what works best for face masks.

As we now know, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 is largely spread via respiratory droplets that are ejected through the mouth and nose via coughing, sneezing, or even talking and breathing. It is estimated that a large number of those who carry the virus can be asymptomatic with no indication that they may be infectious.

A mask is therefore not only important to protect yourself, but potentially protecting others, should you be an asymptomatic carrier. To determine what works best to block these respiratory droplets, the researchers experimented with different types of fabrics and designs.

READ MORE | This is what a fabric face mask should look like to be more effective

Not only is Covid-19 attacking our lungs, but could also be targeting our hearts.

The disease's respiratory issues have been at the forefront of reported symptoms and causes of death, but cardiac complications are also prevalent among Covid-19 patients.

One of these conditions is myocarditis, when a viral infection attacks the heart, weakening it and creating an abnormal heartbeat which could lead to death.

A new study published in Cell Reports Medicine aimed to find out if these heart failures were a byproduct of the body's inflammatory immune response or if the virus could be directly attacking the heart.

Heart autopsies on patients who have succumbed to the virus have yielded limited results due to pandemic regulations, so these scientists took a different route to study the heart.

Scientists subjected lab-grown heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) to a SARS-CoV-2 infection to analyse the effect on heart function.

READ MORE | Lab-grown cells prove the coronavirus can directly attack the heart

There's new evidence that a 2 000-year-old medicine might offer hope against a modern scourge: Covid-19.

The medication, called colchicine, is an anti-inflammatory taken as a pill. It's long been prescribed for gout, a form of arthritis, and its history goes back centuries. The drug was first sourced from the autumn crocus flower.

Doctors also sometimes use colchicine to treat pericarditis, where the sac around the heart becomes inflamed.

Now, a team of Greek researchers reporting in JAMA Network Open said their small trial suggests colchicine may indeed help curb severe Covid-19.

READ MORE | An ancient drug shows promise against severe Covid-19

Patients with severe Covid-19 may be at risk for a variety of brain complications – from stroke to psychosis, new research suggests.

"There have been growing reports of an association between Covid-19 infection and possible neurological or psychiatric complications, but until now these have typically been limited to studies of 10 patients or fewer," said lead study author Benedict Michael. He is a fellow in the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

The study, described as the first nationwide look at neurological complications of infection with the new coronavirus, looked at 125 Covid-19 patients treated in UK hospitals during April. Michael emphasised that it focused only on cases that were serious enough to require hospitalisation.

The most common brain complication was stroke, which occurred in 77 patients.

READ MORE | Stroke, confusion: Covid-19 often impacts the brain

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