Infectious Diseases

21 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Latest on cigarette, lockdown court bids, and Gauteng cluster outbreaks

Latest on court bids on the cigarette sale ban, and lockdown regulations, and concerns over Covid-19 cluster outbreaks transmitted through funeral gatherings in Gauteng.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 92 681.

According to the latest update, 1 877 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 50 326 recoveries.

So far, more than 1.29 million tests have been conducted, with 33 174 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Economic damage to South Africa from the current cigarette ban, which is thought to include the loss of billions of rands in excise tax, will be partly mitigated by economic activity from the growing illegal cigarette trade.

This is one of the statements included in court documents lodged by Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to keep the 12-week ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in place, opposing a second court bid to resume legal trade.

Her 500-plus page affidavit contains a wide array of facts, analyses and opinions to retain the ban - which has been criticised by the tobacco industry as harmful to jobs, not effective in stopping smoking, and not supported by evidence.

The main focus of her argument in retaining the temporary ban is that emerging research supports the view that smoking leads to more severe cases of Covid-19, and that the ban is necessary as a precautionary measure to safeguard South Africa's healthcare system.

Dlamini-Zuma's affidavit was recently lodged in a case brought by the country's largest tobacco manufacturer, British American Tobacco South Africa, and other tobacco groupings to have the ban undone.

READ MORE | Illegal cigarette trade may reduce economic harm of tobacco ban - govt in court papers

The national Department of Health says South Africa is in a "favourable" position to immediately roll out dexamethasone to all seriously ill Covid-19 patients.

On Friday evening, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the department had checked its stock and currently had around 300 000 ampoules, or vials, in the country.

"This is one of those medicines where we do have excellent local capacity."

He added there were three major suppliers of intravenous dexamethasone in the country.

READ MORE | Covid-19 breakthrough: SA in good position to immediately roll out dexamethasone

The Gauteng Department of Health has raised concerns over Covid-19 cluster outbreaks transmitted through funeral gatherings.

The department noted an increasing pattern of cluster outbreaks as a result of funeral gatherings, according to a media statement released on Saturday.

"We are appealing to communities to be extra cautious and adhere to the regulations when organising and attending funerals," said Kwara Kekana, spokesperson for Health MEC Bandile Masuku.

Last week, Premier David Makhura stated that the pandemic was gaining momentum in the province, after more than 3 000 cases were recorded in just 11 days of the Level 3 lockdown. He also referenced three funerals in Johannesburg that that had contributed to new infections.

Gauteng has not been the only province to raise concerns over funeral gatherings - as early as April, the Eastern Cape Department of Health had flagged funerals as a concern after around 200 Covid-19 cases were linked to just three funerals in the province.

READ MORE | Gauteng Health Department 'deeply concerned' about Covid-19 cases spread through funerals

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is expected to hear an appeal over the constitutionality and validity of the lockdown regulations ruling.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is appealing the 2 June ruling by Judge Norman Davis who declared that all lockdown regulations were unconstitutional and invalid.

The hearing will be heard on Wednesday.

The Liberty Fighters Network (LFN), which took the matter to court, challenging the constitutionality of the regulations, said it's ready to face the Minister in court for a second time.

READ MORE | Dlamini-Zuma in bid to overturn unconstitutionality ruling of the lockdown regulations


Cases update:

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

Early on Sunday morning, positive cases worldwide were nearly 8.75 million, while deaths were more than 462 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - nearly 2.25 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 119 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

World Health Organisation (WHO) officials have said the coronavirus sequence in the latest Beijing outbreak is most likely related to the European strain.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, WHO's executive director of the Health Emergencies Programme, Dr Michael Ryan, said the outbreak in Beijing appears to be a human-to-human transmission and not another cross-species infection.

"What it's saying most likely is that the disease was probably imported from outside Beijing at some point," Ryan said, adding that "establishing when that happened and how long the chain of transmission is important."

WHO's announcement came a day after the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials released data revealing the gene sequence of the COVID-19 virus that broke out in Beijing's Xinfadi market last week.

READ MORE | A coronavirus strain from Europe may be to blame for the outbreak in Beijing

Brazil has become the second country to reach more than 1 million Covid-19 infections, after the United States surpassed 2 million infections earlier this month.

The country saw a major increase in cases on Friday, with 54 771 new infections - bringing the total number to 1 032 913, according to Sky News.

There were also 1 206 new deaths, bringing the total death toll to 48 954, the publication reports.

However, the health ministry said the record spike was due to reporting system corrections in some states from previous days.

READ MORE | Brazil has become the second country to surpass 1 million Covid-19 cases


The grosser someone sounds when they cough or sneeze, the more likely you are to suspect they have a contagious infection – even if it's not true.

That's the upshot of a new study in which participants were asked to judge whether people were – or weren't – infected with a communicable disease by the sound of their coughs and sneezes.

On average, they guessed about four out of 10 sounds correctly, according to researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The findings were recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

"We find no evidence that perceivers can reliably detect pathogen threats from cough and sneeze sounds, even though they are reasonably certain they can," said study lead author Nicholas Michalak, a doctoral student in psychology.

READ MORE | That cough or sneeze behind you might not be Covid-19

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