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Infectious Diseases

Updated 03 August 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Govt admission on smokers, and latest on PPE corruption claims

The government has admitted "smoking populations were less likely to be infected" with the coronavirus; and Gauteng govt tight-lipped on latest PPE tender corruption claims.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 511 485 .

According to the latest update, 8 366 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 347 227 recoveries.

So far, more than 3.03 million tests have been conducted, with 34 794 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The government has admitted "smoking populations were less likely to be infected" with the coronavirus and develop Covid-19.

And, in a further apparent inadvertent muddle, government argues cigarette purchasing during lockdown increased inter-personal contact – as compared with ordinary shoppers – without acknowledging its own ban on legal cigarette sales could be to blame.

But government insists tobacco smoking still makes smokers more vulnerable to the pandemic - hence the lockdown on legal sales.

These arguments are found in a vast 251-page response by government to a court challenge against its ongoing ban on cigarettes and tobacco products.

British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) is set to argue that the regulation invoked to ban the sale of cigarettes is unconstitutional, in the Western Cape High Court next month.

South Africa's largest cigarette manufacturer says the state's justification for banning the sale of tobacco products during lockdown is an "exercise in smoke and mirrors" that has produced "few benefits and immense harm".

Now the government has mounted its defence, in response to BATSA’s court papers.

READ MORE | Lockdown cigarette wars: Govt admits smokers 'less likely to be infected' with coronavirus

Gauteng's Covid-19 figures for Sunday could not be released as the recoveries were still being validated, the provincial government has said.

"As part of ensuring the reliability of the statistics released to the public, the Gauteng Department of Health from time to time audits its data," spokesperson for Health MEC Kwara Kekana said in a statement on Sunday.

"This is part of the data harmonisation process. The team is currently validating the data for recoveries and, as such, we will not be releasing today's daily stats," she said.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Gauteng's Sunday figures not released due to delay in validating recoveries 

The DA is calling for a parliamentary debate in which President Cyril Ramaphosa must answer for the widespread Covid-19 tender corruption involving high-ranking ANC officials.

In a letter to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise, DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said South Africans have learned of corruption scandals involving those linked to the governing party.

"This matter is of urgent public importance as the South African economy is being decimated under South Africa’s hard lockdown, shedding jobs and opportunity at an unprecedented rate. The issuing of government tenders must be used to bolster and support the thousands of small businesses which form the backbone of our economy through a process which is fair and transparent," he said.

Meanwhile, the Gauteng government remains tight-lipped on the latest personal protective equipment (PPE) tender corruption claims involving the controversial Royal Bhaca Projects (RBP).

READ MORE | Gauteng govt tight-lipped on latest PPE tender corruption claims 

Hundreds of people marched through the streets of central Johannesburg to the Gauteng legislature on Saturday. The protest was to highlight government failures in response to Covid-19.

The protest was divided into groups to ensure physical distancing and marshals were sanitising people's hands, GroundUp reported.

Some people were holding signs which read: "Freedom from hunger"; "Decongest informal settlements and backyards for social distancing"; and "Government we demand you hear us".

The protesters said the ANC government had failed to protect and support poor people during the Covid-19 lockdown which had resulted in hunger, job losses and evictions.

READ MORE | Hundreds protest in Joburg against government's response to Covid-19

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 Sunday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 17.85 million, while deaths were almost 680 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 464 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 155 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

A new spike in coronavirus cases has prompted Australia's second-biggest city, Melbourne, to go into a stage-four lockdown. Restrictions include an overnight curfew and banning residents from travelling more than 5 kilometres from their home.

The curfew in Melbourne - the capital of the southeastern state of Victoria - will come into effect as of Sunday evening and will last for at least six weeks, the state premier Daniel Andrews announced Sunday morning.

Andrews also declared a state of disaster in Victoria for the first time since the bushfires that devastated the region earlier this year.

"We can no longer have people simply out and about for no good reason whatsoever," Andrews said on Sunday, according to the Guardian.

READ MORE | The second-biggest city in Australia now has a curfew and a 5km travel limit

LATEST RESEARCH

As you wade through the conspiracy theories that have bloomed in the pandemic on your social timelines or in WhatsApp groups, you may have noticed that the people sharing these wild theories tend to be of the masculine persuasion.

And it's not just an observation. A study has actually confirmed that men are more likely than women to believe in Covid-19 conspiracy theories.

Published in Politics and Gender, researchers from the University of Delaware found a significant gender gap when it comes to who is spreading conspiracy theories, and dived in to find out what is causing this divide. 

In previous studies, Americans who touted this pandemic-related misinformation tended to be Republicans, conservatives, those struggling with uncertainty, and people who are denialists and believed in other conspiracy theories even before Covid-19.

There are also certain personality traits, a need to be unique, ostracisation and cognitive and proportionality biases that contribute to these beliefs. 

But when it comes to gender, it's been used more as a control for data than something to correlate with conspiracy theory beliefs. 

READ MORE | Men are more likely to fall for Covid-19 conspiracy theories 

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