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Infectious Diseases

16 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Latest on booze, schools, and concerns over a fresh outbreak in China

Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape hint at reinstating alcohol ban; Cosas calls for mass testing of pupils, vows to shut down schools; and a fresh virus outbreak in China.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 73 533.

According to the latest update, 1 568 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 39 867 recoveries.

So far, more than 1.14 million tests have been conducted, with 26 975 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Premiers of the three provinces with the highest number of Covid-19 infections have all hinted at formally requesting the ban on the sale of liquor be re-instated as alcohol-related incidents are on the rise.

Western Cape, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape have the most infections in the country and figures have sharply increased since the move to Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown.

First to make the call to reinstate the liquor ban was Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said there has been a marked increase in alcohol abuse cases.

“I need you to be self-disciplined. What we have seen in some areas is the abuse of alcohol. In terms of trauma, we have also seen some strain on our hospitals. You are putting yourself and others in danger,” Winde said.

READ MORE | Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape hint at reinstating alcohol ban

Eastern Cape healthcare workers are waiting nearly a month for their coronavirus test results from public sector laboratories, prompting workers to fear that they may be exposing patients and colleagues to the infection.

Earlier this month, testing backlogs prompted the Western Cape health department to announce that it would restrict testing for the new coronavirus to those with symptoms who were over the age of 55 or had underlying health conditions, as well as healthcare workers or patients in hospital or old-age homes.

A backlog of more than 21 000 tests for the new virus in the Eastern Cape has led to calls for the province to adopt a similarly restrictive criteria for coronavirus testing. Meanwhile, healthcare workers in the province say they're scared that if they develop Covid-19, they won’t be diagnosed in time to get care or protect others from catching it. Gauteng is already rushing health worker tests to private laboratories.

As of 9 June, the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) had about 70 000 unprocessed tests for the new coronavirus, SARS-Cov-2, NHLS chief executive officer Kamy Chetty told Parliament on 10 June. SARS-Cov-2 causes Covid-19 disease.

READ MORE | Eastern Cape health workers wait up to one month for Covid-19 test results

The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) says the Department of Basic Education needs to go back to the drawing board and pen new plans to ensure that pupils are safe at school amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

For this reason, it is planning to shut down all schools.

Speaking to News24 on Monday, Cosas national spokesperson Zithulele Ndlela said while they called for all schools to shut down across the country, key focus areas were Gauteng, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape.

Ndlela said they understood there were delays in the test results of some of the teachers and pupils who were tested, which posed a risk to other educators and children. He said pupils should only return to school after testing negative.

READ MORE | Coronavirus: Cosas calls for mass testing of pupils, vows to shut down schools

The DA's real problem is that Parliament is a democratic institution where minority parties do not always have their way, lawyers for President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's have argued in court papers.

They were responding to an application which the DA lodged in the country's apex court.

The DA applied for direct access to the Constitutional Court on an urgent basis to challenge the constitutionality of the Disaster Management Act (DMA), saying that its application raised "fundamental questions about the separation of powers between Parliament and the executive".

But, responding on behalf of the government, Wim Trengove SC said Parliament delegated the management of the disaster to the national executive and may, at any time, withdraw, amend or qualify its delegation.

He argued that the DA ignored that the National Assembly had extensive oversight over the executive.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Government wants DA ConCourt challenge dismissed with costs

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 Tuesday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 7.97 million, while deaths were close to 435 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 2.11 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 116 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

More than 100 cases of the novel coronavirus have been officially recorded in the fresh outbreak in Beijing, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.

As lockdown restrictions ease and countries in Europe lifted their borders, the WHO warned countries to stay on alert for a possible resurgence of Covid-19 infections.

The UN health agency said it understood no new deaths have been reported thus far in the Chinese capital but added that given Beijing's size and connectivity, the outbreak was a cause for concern.

"Even in countries that have demonstrated the ability to suppress transmission, countries must stay alert to the possibility of resurgence," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference.

READ MORE | Over 100 cases in new Beijing Covid-19 outbreak - WHO

LATEST RESEARCH

Children have mostly had mild cases of the coronavirus – the elderly and those who have pre-existing chronic conditions and weakened immune systems seem to have more severe cases of Covid-19. Scientists have been trying to unravel this mystery for months.

One of the proposed reasons is that with age, comes a deterioration of the immune system, and with that, as a previous Health24 article explains, chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, ultimately make it harder to fight off infections.

A recent study, published in The Lancet, states that increasing evidence points to the difference in the condition of blood vessels between adults and children. The study was carried out by 10 researchers who studied the arteries of adults infected with Covid-19, and said that this may shed further light on why children are at extremely low risk of becoming ill when contracting the virus.

The team of researchers looked at three Covid-19 adult patients, aged 71, 58 and 69, two of whom died. They found that the virus infected one of the patients' endothelium, and led to inflammation and signs of clotting. Endothelial cells participate in several physiological functions, and are known for acting as a barrier between blood and body tissue and work to prevent blood clotting.

READ MORE | Coronavirus in children: Could blood vessels explain the low number of complicated cases?

Amid the Covid-19 crisis, researchers in the UK and several European countries recently picked up on a new inflammatory syndrome in children that is similar to Kawasaki disease, a rare inflammatory disease known to affect infants and young children.

This new disease has been named Paediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome Temporally Associated With SARS-CoV-2 (PIMS-TS) and is a mysterious condition that only surfaced after the Covid-19 outbreak.

Their research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, identified the main symptoms and clinical markers of the new syndrome after studying 58 children who were admitted to eight hospitals in England.

Led by Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) researchers, the analysis showed that if left untreated, the new condition presents a risk of severe complications in seriously ill children.

READ MORE | Kawasaki-like disease affecting children is a new condition – and may be linked to Covid-19

Breathable and transparent – this could be the face of future surgical masks thanks to Swiss researchers from science and technology university EPFL.

Dreamed up by the EssentialTech Centre of the university, they created a disposable surgical mask where patients can see the whole face of healthcare professionals while being treated.

Called HelloMasks, they also founded the startup HMCare to market it. There has been a boom in mask production around the world, and this surge in demand helped them to easily raise around R17.6 million to start the manufacturing process.

Their timing couldn’t be better. They started working on the mask two years ago – before the start of the pandemic – because they saw a need for medical practitioners to better communicate with their patients while keeping their masks on. This is especially useful for children, patients that have hearing issues, and the elderly – all who depend on visual cues for communication.

READ MORE | Swiss researchers have created a transparent, breathable surgical mask

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