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Infectious Diseases

13 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Increase in public lab testing - SA cases at 2 173, and UK PM out of hospital

Your latest coronavirus news: There are 145 new cases in SA - taking the total to 2 173; but the health minister says public laboratory testing is gaining pace; and the UK prime minister has left hospital, a week after he was admitted.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 2 173.

No new deaths were reported - but there have been 25 in the country so far.

There have been 80 085 tests conducted so far. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that public laboratory tests are increasing, with 3 192 of 5 032 tests conducted in the past day being done in public labs.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Covid-19 has hit the East London Correctional Centre, where 23 correctional services officials and three inmates tested positive for the virus.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola confirmed on Sunday 26 cases have been detected in the female section.

Lamola, who visited the prison on Sunday, said more people have been tested, adding the department was still waiting on the results.

"The positive cases follow mass screenings that the Eastern Cape region embarked upon at the Medium C Female Centre after the first positive case was recorded on 6 April.

"The official, who tested positive, attended a funeral, where she interacted with people from overseas."

READ MORE | 23 officials, 3 prisoners test positive for Covid-19 at East London prison

A police officer in the Western Cape has tested positive for Covid-19, says national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo.

"I can confirm that a warrant officer at the Athlone police station in the Western Cape has tested positive for Covid-19. This is the first police officer in the province to test positive," Naidoo said on Sunday.

As a result, the station was immediately evacuated on Saturday and all officers who were on the same shift were placed in self-isolation.

"There are about 20 of them who have been placed in self-isolation pending their tests results," Naidoo added.

READ MORE | Cape Town cop tests positive for Covid-19, Athlone police station closed until Monday

As government health officials apply pressure on the Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban, chronically ill patients continue to receive care in some parts of the facility.

Doctors and surgeons have, meanwhile, told City Press that they were being ostracised by other private hospitals in the province.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told a media briefing in Pietermaritzburg on Friday that KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu had been instructed to initiate investigations on protocols in place at other private hospitals in the province after several complaints were lodged with the department.

The main hospital building at St Augustine’s was closed for deep cleaning last week after 66 people were found to have contracted the Covid-19 coronavirus, 44 of them nurses.

READ MORE | Inside the hospital of death: St Augustine’s battles Covid-19 stigma

South African restaurants and fast food outlets are preparing for a second phase of the national lockdown in which they are allowed to reopen, on a strictly takeaway-only basis.

Big players in the industry believe a decision on what President Cyril Ramaphosa referred to as a phased reopening of the economy will include them, one way or the other.

Acting on that belief, both independent operators and large chains have started to make preparations. These include figuring out how to safely get staff to and from restaurants, with no or minimal use of public transport, and enhanced hygiene measures. 

Restaurants, and industry bodies that represent them, are also considering regular monitoring of staff temperatures (fever is one of the early signs of Covid-19), and refusing to take payment by cash, which may carry the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Restaurant groups appear to have accepted that there will be no sit-down service, and a major focus area is on exactly how to operate with the minimum number of customers in their restaurants at any point.

At least one chain is considering selling food only via third-party delivery services such as Uber Eats and Mr D, which are delivering essential supplies. Others are believed to be considering open drive-through windows while doors remain locked.

READ MORE | Restaurants are planning takeaway-only in phase 2 of lockdown; taverns demand the right to open

The extension of the countrywide lockdown to the end of April because of the coronavirus pandemic will only serve to add more pressure to a South African economy that has been creaking over for most of the past decade. At the centre of its struggles has been the record low confidence levels of consumers, whose spend is the largest contributor to an economy already in the grip of a recession.

Some of the large banks, such as Standard Bank, have already announced measures to alleviate pressure on clients in good standing as incomes get squeezed. And questions are being asked whether education companies, such as Curro Holdings for instance - the country’s largest private school business with more than 120 schools - will face pressures to lighten the load.

The sudden and unforeseen financial implications of the pandemic, as well as the fact that all schools have been closed for weeks, raise questions about whether private schools will offer payment holidays or other special arrangements.

"While schools remain closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, we are equipped for learning to continue via a remote and online learning strategy. Further, the time that learners have lost not being able to attend school, will be made up throughout the remainder of the year," Mari Lategan, Curro spokesperson, said.

READ MORE| Coronavirus and private schools: Any chance of a payment holiday?

The number of incidents of liquor looting during the lockdown continues to increase following the arrest of three men who broke into a bottle store in Stellenbosch on Sunday morning.

According to police, three male suspects allegedly broke into the store after breaking a window and stole an undisclosed amount of alcohol before fleeing in a vehicle.

“A local security company vehicle on patrol in the area was flagged by a passer-by who alerted the guards to the burglary,” police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa said in a statement.

“They circulated the information and drove in the direction the vehicle was alleged to have sped. Meanwhile, traffic officials manning a roadblock nearby saw the vehicle approaching and stopped it.”

READ MORE | Lockdown: More liquor looting as 3 arrested in Stellenbosch

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.

Early on Monday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 1.84 million, while deaths were more than 113 500.

Deaths in the United States were more than 21 700, as cases went past the 550 000-mark.

Spain and Italy both have more than 150 000 cases, and more than 17 000 deaths.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Boris Johnson left hospital on Sunday to convalesce from coronavirus at Chequers, the country estate of British prime ministers, officials said, a week after he was admitted and then spent three days in intensive care.

The 55-year-old leader will not be immediately returning to work, on the advice of his medical staff, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

"The PM has been discharged from hospital to continue his recovery at Chequers," he said.

"He wishes to thank everybody at St Thomas' (Hospital) for the brilliant care he has received.

"All of his thoughts are with those affected by this illness."

READ MORE | Boris Johnson leaves hospital as UK braces for grim milestone of passing 10 000 Covid-19 deaths

The United States may be ready to start gradually reopening next month, the government's top infectious diseases expert said on Sunday, as signs grew that the coronavirus pandemic is peaking.

President Donald Trump had earlier wanted the world's largest economy to be "raring to go" by Sunday, but most of the country remained at a standstill and churches took Easter celebrations online to halt the spread of the virus that has killed more than 20 000 people in the US.

Trump has cast the decision on when to ease the lockdown as the biggest of his presidency as he faces competing pressures from public health experts and businesses along with some conservative allies who want a swift return to business as usual.

Anthony Fauci, the veteran pandemic expert who has quietly sought action to stem infections, said in a televised interview that parts of the country could begin easing restrictions next month - but was cautious.

READ MORE | US could start reopening in May, top virus advisor says

The United States on Saturday accused Chinese authorities of "xenophobia" toward Africans, after coronavirus cases among Nigerians unleashed a wave of evictions in the city of Guangzhou.

Africans in southern China's largest metropolis told AFP they had been kicked out of lodgings and then turned away from hotels over suspicions aroused by the Nigerian cases.

"The abuse and mistreatment of Africans living and working in China is a sad reminder of how hollow the PRC-Africa partnership really is," a State Department spokesperson said, using the acronym for the Peoples Republic of China.

"At a time when we should be supporting one another to recover from a pandemic PRC officials recklessly hid from the world, Chinese officials are busy evicting African students into the streets without food or shelter."

READ MORE | US accuses China of 'xenophobia' in treatment of Africans

Ten foreigners who broke a coronavirus lockdown in an Indian town made famous by the Beatles, were forced to repent by writing "I am so sorry" - 500 times, officials said on Sunday.

The nationwide lockdown was imposed near the end of March, with residents permitted to leave their homes only for essential services such as buying groceries and medicine.

The travellers - from Israel, Mexico, Australia and Austria - were caught taking a walk in Rishikesh, where the Beatles sought spirituality at an Ashram in 1968.

Local police officer Vinod Sharma said they were each made to write "I did not follow the rules of lockdown so I am so sorry" 500 times.

READ MORE | Tourists forced to write 'sorry' 500 times over India lockdown breach

LATEST RESEARCH

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