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Infectious Diseases

03 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Judge rules lockdown regulations invalid, and latest on testing in CT

Your latest coronavirus news: A judge has declared lockdown Levels 4 and 3 unconstitutional and invalid; and testing in Cape Town - those most at risk to be prioritised.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 35 812.

According to the latest update, 755 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 18 313 recoveries.

So far, 761 534 tests have been conducted, with 18 792 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The inference Judge Norman Davis draws after the declaration of a national state of disaster was that little or no regard was given to the extent of the impact of individual regulations on the Constitutional rights of people and whether the extent of the limitation of their rights was justifiable or not.

This is according to his judgment on Tuesday, in which he declared lockdown Levels 4 and 3 unconstitutional and invalid.

The application was brought by the Liberty Fighters Network (LFN) and the Hola Bona Renaissance Foundation.

"The starting point was not 'how can we as government limit Constitutional rights in the least possible fashion whilst still protecting the inhabitants of SA?', but rather 'we will seek to achieve our goal by whatever means, irrespective of the costs and we will determine, albeit incrementally, which Constitutional rights you as the people of South Africa may exercise'," he said.

He ordered that Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma within 14 days formulate changes to the regulations. In the meantime, the current lockdown regulations will apply.

Davis, in his judgement, slammed a number of the regulations, saying besides the specific ones cited, "there are many more instances of sheer irrationality included therein".

READ MORE | 'Irrational! Irrational!' Constitutional crisis as judge rules lockdown regulations invalid

Capetonians younger than 55 – who also have no serious underlying medical conditions which may make them vulnerable – may no longer be tested for Covid-19.

This appears to represent a dramatic change to testing policy and is a recommendation by the Western Cape government's Department of Health, aimed at prioritising testing for those most at risk.

Department head Dr Keith Cloete confirmed this to News24 on Tuesday afternoon. He said that the provincial health department had already begun implementing its new policy, along with the City of Cape Town.

He stressed that the policy was a "recommendation", and was not binding on all healthcare services, such as private or NGO facilities.

READ MORE | Cape Town Covid-19 tests: Those younger than 55 and without comorbidity may no longer be tested

The Educators Union of South Africa has lodged an urgent court application to interdict the reopening of schools on 8 June.

The matter was postponed on Tuesday in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria and will now be heard on 9 June, the president of the union, Scelo Bhengu, told News24.

"We told our more than 27 000 members across the country that they shouldn't go to school, it is not safe for them and for the kids to go to school at this time. They must remain in their homes," he said.

Pupils were set to return on Monday, with schools having been closed since mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On Sunday, the Department of Basic Education announced that schools would not reopen on Monday, 1 June - instead, pupils would only return from 8 June.

READ MORE | Teachers' union in court bid to stop schools from opening, tells its members to stay home

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer will not back down on her decision to let grades 7 and 12 return to school in spite of instructions by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga that schools should stay closed for another week.

"I am not going to," said Schäfer when asked if she would close schools in the province to keep them in line with the rest of the country.

This in response to a question during acting DA leader John Steenhuisen's "coronacast" live on Facebook on Tuesday.

"My mandate is to make sure that children are educated," said Schäfer.

"That's a fundamental right in the Constitution. I will not stop anybody who wants to teach a child, who is complying with the national minister's Government Gazette and the security and safety precautions that we've put in place, unless a court tells me to stop.

"So no, we will not [close]," she added.

READ MORE | Western Cape schools will stay open until a court says otherwise - Schäfer

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 Tuesday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 6.33 million, while deaths were more than 378 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 1.82 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 106 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Stefan Löfven, Sweden's prime minister, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet on Monday that the government will appoint a commission before the summer.

It is likely that many countries will conduct reviews of how the virus outbreak was handled. But Sweden has accelerated its timeline: Reuters reported that Löfven previously said Sweden would wait until the outbreak had ended.

"We need to take an overall approach to see how it has worked at national, regional and local levels," Löfven said.

"We will make a decision for a commission before the summer," he said.

Sweden's strategy largely relies on people to socially distance themselves while keeping restaurants, bars, shops, parks, and schools for younger children open.

READ MORE | Sweden rushes to launch a formal inquiry into its no-lockdown coronavirus strategy

LATEST RESEARCH

Masks have become the world’s latest weapon against the new coronavirus which has infected more than 6.1 million people worldwide so far and killed 372 136, as of 1 June, stats by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre indicate.

And since evidence of aerosol transmission of the virus in asymptomatic people is constantly surfacing, researchers, whose work was published in Science last month, suggest that this only proves the importance of regular widespread testing, mask-wearing and physical distancing.

Public places in the world, including shopping centres, restaurants, and schools, have been following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines regarding physical distancing. According to WHO:

“Maintain at least 1m (3ft) distance between yourself and others. Why? When someone coughs, sneezes, or speaks, they spray small droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus.

“If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the Covid-19 virus if the person has the disease.”

READ MORE | Importance of wearing masks during Covid-19 pandemic – amid concerns over aerosol spread

As the new coronavirus continues to spread, so do stress, anxiety and depression. After all, millions of people across the world are concerned about job security and an increased workload, among many other things. News24 reports that calls to mental health and suicide helplines have more than doubled since March. And all of this worry around the pandemic can lead to poor quality or fragmented sleep.

In trying to gain a clearer picture of the situation, a team of researchers from the University of Cape Town (UCT), Wits and Rhodes universities investigated how the lockdown is affecting people’s daily routines, in terms of their lifestyle behavioural factors (sleep, physical activity, work, meal times, screen time etc.) and associations with anxiety and depression. To do this, one of the tools they used was an actogram, which, using a wrist-worn accelerometer, charts a person’s sleep patterns.

“What we know, however, is that in the absence of any other underlying medical condition or medication use, stress/anxiety is one of the chief 'ruiners' of sleep," explained Dr Dale Rae, head of the chronobiology and sleep laboratory in the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at UCT.

Our bodies’ internal clock loves rhythm and routine, said Rae, and healthy routines are therefore important to robust circadian rhythms – the natural internal process that manages most of the processes within our bodies, including the sleep-wake cycle, and repeats every 24 hours. When this rhythm is disrupted, we can experience sleep impairment, fatigue and a disturbed metabolism.

READ MORE | Have your sleep patterns become disrupted during lockdown? You’re not alone

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.

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