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Infectious Diseases

10 May 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Health minister warns on lockdown restrictions as cases surge past 9 000

Your latest coronavirus news: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has warned those living in cities across the country that they may have to brace themselves for stricter restrictions for longer, as all metros were currently coronavirus hotspots - as he confirmed that SA has 9 420 cases.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 9 420.

According to the latest update, 183 of deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 3 983 recoveries so far.

More than 34 000 tests have been conducted, to date.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed that South Africa has 9 420 coronavirus cases, with the Western Cape being the biggest contributor to these numbers.

He warned those living in cities across the country that they may have to brace themselves for stricter restrictions for longer, as all metros were currently coronavirus hotspots.

There would be no "once-size-fits-all" approach to these lockdown restrictions. Instead, every area would be assessed in terms of their specific risk profiles, Mkhize said.

Asked why the Western Cape had significantly more Covid-19 infections than the rest of the country, Mkhize said one of the features of the pandemic in the province was the outbreak in "clusters" of infections. These were primarily in factories and busy retail areas.

READ MORE | Covid-19: SA's net death rate has decreased despite Covid-19 fatalities - Mkhize

South African smokers have turned to some gnarly, cheap locally made smokes to get their nicotine fix in the six weeks since the government banned the sale of cigarettes.

These weird and wonderful new brands are put on the market by what are called "value brand manufacturers". There are literally dozens of value brands out there for the unsuspecting South African smoker to choose from, including Caesar, F1s, Golden Flake, Ossum, Kingdom, Pacific Blue, Gold Mount, Sahawi, Navara, and JFK.

"Technically speaking, all cigarettes being sold during lockdown, regardless of brand, are considered 'illegal'. This renders the illicit trade in cigarettes under lockdown as 100% of the market," says Johann van Loggerenberg, the author of the searing exposé Tobacco Wars, about the illegal cigarette trade in South Africa.

Beyond being illegal, these economy brands tend to taste pretty awful too, or have other serious drawbacks.

Krugersdorp resident Cheryl Taylor Lubbe normally smokes Dunhill Fine Cuts, which cost her approximately R48 a box. After the lockdown, she managed to score a carton of Richman Blue for R180, which were "still acceptable and didn't taste horrible", although they "made my house seem blue with the smoke and the smell was terrible".

When she went back to her supplier, she learnt that the smokes were going at R450 a carton at illegal selling points, the same price as her Dunhills. So she switched to another knock-off brand called Voyager and discovered "why it's called 'Voyager' – because those smokes fly. I easily smoked forty cigarettes a day because I felt I wasn't getting my nicotine fix".

On top of that, the Voyagers "made my tongue feel and taste like I've been eating sour jelly babies".

So she switched to yet another shady brand called Cape Navy Cut.

"The box and the cigarettes look like the candy cigarettes you could buy in the 80s and 90s".

Welcome to the world of fly-by-night cigarette brands, under the table sales, and "severe headaches and sinusitis".

READ MORE | ‘Value’ cigarette brands are widely sold despite the tobacco ban – and they’re awful

The ban on cigarette and alcohol sales during the lockdown has created an underground market of rampant deals all over Pietermaritzburg.

And it’s not only dodgy characters indulging in the goods offered. Those supporting it are normally law-abiding citizens and many professional people. A Weekend Witness investigation, conducted this week, revealed a “dial-a-fix” network on social media with door-to-door cigarette and alcohol deliveries.

Sources say phone calls and SMSes to place orders for cigarettes and alcohol have been going on since the lockdown was announced and that the availability and accessibility has made it easy for people to buy and get their buzz.

Some tuck-shop and pub owners, and their connections, have formed WhatsApp groups advertising what they have in stock. The connection puts in an order for the third party and the pickup for the booze or tobacco is arranged.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Big profits for the cigarette 'black market' in KZN

While at least 19 000 inmates inside South Africa's prisons will be eligible for special parole to curb the spread of coronavirus, those sentenced for a range of serious crimes will not make the cut.

This as President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the release on parole of low-risk inmates to ease overcrowding and curb the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.

On Friday, Ramaphosa announced and gazetted the decision in terms of Section 84(2)(1) of the Constitution together with SectionB2(1)(a) of the Correctional Services Act 1998. 

In Proclamation 19 of 2020 gazetted on 8 May, Ramaphosa outlined only select inmates would be eligible and only released after processes have been followed.

READ MORE | Covid-19: These are the inmates who will not be eligible for special parole

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 Saturday night, positive cases worldwide were close to 4 million, while deaths were more than 277 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 1.3 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 78 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

On May 8, 1980, the World Health Assembly officially declared smallpox eradicated.

The disease had "plagued humanity for at least 3 000 years, and killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone," the World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing exactly 40 years later, on May 8, 2020.

"Humanity's victory over smallpox is a reminder of what's possible when nations come together to fight a common health threat," he said.

Getting there involved many of the tactics used today against the novel coronavirus, including case finding, contact tracing, and mass communication campaigns. But one "crucial tool" is still missing: a vaccine, which WHO, among many organisations and researchers, is working to develop.

Even when an effective coronavirus vaccine is available and widely accessible, the eradication of Covid-19 is likely a ways off, if it happens at all. Smallpox remains the only human disease to be eradicated globally, and it took 184 years between the development of the first-ever vaccine in 1796 to its eradication in 1980.

READ MORE | It took 184 years to eradicate smallpox after a vaccine — a reminder of what we may face with Covid-19

The American government agency, the Food and Drug Administration, has issued recommendations for pet owners during the coronavirus pandemic, encouraging social distancing practices for cats and dogs.

An FDA fact sheet from April 30 indicates that pets should not interact with people or other animals outside the immediate household. Cats should be kept indoors when possible, and dogs should be kept on a leash that can maintain at least six feet distance from other humans and animals. 

The agency also recommended dog owners avoid dog parks or other public places "where a large number of people and dogs gather."

While the USDA oversees livestock, the FDA is responsible for monitoring pet food and medications.

READ MORE | The US is recommending cats and dogs practice physical distancing, too

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