Infectious Diseases

23 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Incorrect tweet causes confusion over alcohol, cigarette lockdown bans

The government says a tweet which sparked confusion about the alcohol and cigarette sales bans was incorrect - and the regulations apply "for Level 3 for now"


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 394 948.

According to the latest update, 5 940 of deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 229 175 recoveries.

So far, more than 2.58 million tests have been conducted, with 48 553 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The government says there has been no change to Level 3 regulations with regard to the ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products.

This comes after a tweet sparked confusion over when the bans would be lifted.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Mlungisi Mtshali told News24 on Wednesday the regulations remained unchanged.

"This [alcohol and tobacco] ban applies for Level 3 for now. I don't want to comment on the tweet, but for now the ban is in place and the regulations in place apply under Level 3 of the lockdown," he explained.

The government subsequently tweeted that the information contained in the initial tweet was incorrect and would be removed.

READ MORE | Govt says tweet which sparked confusion about alcohol, cigarette ban is incorrect

The wait for Cabinet to announce its decision on whether schools will close or remain open amid the Covid-19 surge is causing more "anxiety and uncertainty".

This is according to the country's two largest teachers' unions - the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa).

The two unions told News24 that the wait was too long, causing an unease among teachers and pupils.

Sadtu general-secretary Mugwena Maluleke said there was now a need for a decision to be made and conveyed urgently because people on the ground, at schools, were becoming more "uneasy" with each passing day.

READ MORE | Schools closure: Cabinet causing 'anxiety' as it dithers to keep schools open or not, say unions

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) on Wednesday reported an estimated 17 000 more deaths than expected, or "excess deaths", occurred in the country since May this year.

The SAMRC's Burden of Disease Research Unit, together with the Centre for Actuarial Research at the University of Cape Town, publishes a weekly mortality report that tracks excess deaths.

The excess is calculated using the number of reported deaths from the National Population Register (NPR), which is maintained by Home Affairs. A forecast is calculated based on the number of deaths reported from natural and unnatural causes in past years.

The SAMRC said on Wednesday that, in the past weeks, the number of excess deaths showed a "relentless increase".

READ MORE |Medical Research Council reports estimated 17 000 excess deaths during Covid-19 outbreak

Restaurateurs protested on Wednesday against the curfew and alcohol ban, which they said were wrecking their industry.

President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a lockdown in March, restricting movement and gatherings.

He loosened some of the restrictions in June, allowing restaurants to reopen, initially for take-out and then for sit-down dining.

But on 12 July, as infections surged, Ramaphosa brought back a night-time curfew that starts at 19:00, and banned afresh the sale of alcohol.

"What the government has put in place has been knee-capping," Sean Barber, the founder of the Rockets chain of restaurants, told AFP.

READ MORE | 'It is decimating our industry' - Restaurant industry protests lockdown restrictions


Cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Early on Thursday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 15.05 million, while deaths were close to 620 000

The United States had the most cases in the world - 3.94 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 143 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Reeling from polls predicting defeat in November's election, US President Donald Trump struck a newly serious tone on the coronavirus crisis on Tuesday, acknowledging that a disease he has frequently played down would "get worse".

"Some areas of our country are doing very well," Trump said at his first formal White House briefing on the pandemic in almost three months.

"Others are doing less well," the president said. "It will probably, unfortunately get worse before it gets better."

The return to presidential coronavirus briefings - abandoned in late April after Trump drew ridicule for musing on the potential for injecting coronavirus patients with household disinfectant - was part of a concerted bid to take back control of the message.

After an erratic US response, some 140 000 deaths, and now dramatic surges in new cases across the south and southwest, polls show two thirds of Americans mistrusting Trump's leadership on the issue.

READ MORE | Donald Trump, sinking in polls, shifts tone on coronavirus


As pressure mounts in South Africa to close schools once again, there is much debate whether children are as likely as adults to transmit SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Now a large study from South Korea, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, suggests that, while children younger than 10 are less likely to transmit the virus, older children between the ages of 10 and 19 have the same capacity to spread the virus as adults.

According to these findings, there may be a surge of Covid-19 cluster outbreaks in communities as schools reopen.

While previous studies showed children and teenagers are less likely to spread Covid-19 than adults, these studies were "small and flawed", according to Dr Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Dr Jha told the New York Times this new study was systematic, carefully done and encompassed a large population. According to other experts, the scale and rigour of this analysis was praiseworthy.

READ MORE | Research finds older children just as likely to transmit coronavirus as adults

Timothy Lebelwane of Diepsloot is one of 2 000 people in South Africa participating in a Covid-19 vaccine trial spearheaded by Wits University. The same vaccine is also being tested in large trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil.

The 57-year-old healthcare worker started trial-related tests at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Diepsloot, Soweto, last month. “So yesterday they started me with the vaccination,” says Lebelwane, talking to Spotlight by phone.

“An injection on my left shoulder, it was a little bit sore, not much though. The thing is, you never know whether it’s the real vaccine or a placebo. I have an appointment again with them next week, to check up for side-effects, maybe.”

The injection Lebelwane received the day before he spoke to Spotlight would have been either the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine or a placebo of normal saltwater. The vaccine’s name stems from ChAdOx1, the virus it is made of, a weakened and non-replicating version of a common cold virus.

Half the trial’s participants will be injected with the vaccine and the other half with the placebo, so scientists can compare their Covid-19 infection rates. Trial participants will be followed for a year. Wits is conducting the trial, called the Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-trial, in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the Oxford Jenner Institute.

READ MORE |Covid-19: 'I want to be a part of the solution against coronavirus,' says vaccine trialist

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