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Infectious Diseases

29 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Latest on Gauteng PPE tenders, and WHO warns pandemic is 'one big wave'

According to the Gauteng health department, 167 companies got tenders for Covid-19 work, R159m the highest amount paid; and the WHO warns that the pandemic is "one big wave".

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 459 761.

According to the latest update, 7 257 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 287 313 recoveries.

So far, more than 2.83 million tests have been conducted, with 28 424 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The company paid the most for Covid-19 related work received a tender for R159 million to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), according to the Gauteng health department.

This was revealed on Tuesday when the department delivered a presentation to the health portfolio committee in the provincial legislature.

The presentation included matters such as staff reprioritisation, PPE procurement (tenders), field hospitals' equipment and the status of the Covid-19 outbreak in the province.

A total of 167 companies received tenders for work related to Covid-19 between April and July, the department said.

Of those companies, Diaane Consulting Services was paid the highest amount - R159 million - while African Delight Catering was the lowest-paid company - R50 000.

Diaane Consulting Services provided surgical masks, FFP2 masks and sanitisers. The company was one of 84 companies that supplied PPEs to the department between March and June.

READ MORE | 167 companies got tenders for Covid-19 work, R159m the highest amount paid - Gauteng health dept

There have been growing calls within the ANC in Gauteng and its alliance partners for Premier David Makhura to act more decisively against corruption, with some calling for Health MEC Bandile Masuku to step aside, even in the middle of a health crisis.

The health department has been embroiled in corruption claims, with the Sunday Independent, over the past two weekends, reporting on the awarding of a personal protective equipment contract of R125 million to the Amabhaca king, Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, who is the spouse of President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko, who also sits on the ANC's provincial executive committee.

Masuku's wife, Loyiso Masuku, who serves as the City of Johannesburg's MMC for group corporate and shared services, is also linked to the claims through her close relationship with the president's spokesperson.

The calls come as Diko takes a leave of absence from all government roles and as the Special Investigations Unit meets with Makhura following the conclusion of investigations into earlier corruption claims at the Department of Health.

READ MORE | Guns out for Bandile Masuku as pressure mounts for David Makhura to act

President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko offered to step aside before his address to the nation last Thursday, after allegations surfaced that her husband's company was awarded a Gauteng health department contract for personal protective equipment (PPE).

But Ramaphosa seemed to have been satisfied with Diko's explanation that her husband received the tender fairly.

This changed when Diko's relationship with Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife Loyiso created a political storm in which even Ramaphosa's allies called for action to be taken against her.

The allegations emanated from a Sunday Independent report that a R125 million PPE contract was awarded to AmaBhaca King Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko - Khusela's husband.

The president's spokesperson is also a member of the Gauteng's ANC's provincial executive committee.

READ MORE | How and why president's spokesperson Khusela Diko took a leave of absence

Business lobby group, Business for South Africa, has urged South Africans and businesses to continue with precautions in work and public life as the economic devastation wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic rages on.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, B4SA said it expected the national Covid-19 infection rate to peak during August 2020, while daily mortalities will peak by late-August or early September.

B4SA said South African businesses were already in distress and it now expects about 1.5 million further job losses by the end of the year.

"The steep and dramatic surge in new infections indicates that we are now well along the upward trajectory of the infection curve, with South Africa recording the fifth highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the world," the group said.

READ MORE | Covid-19 peak expected late August, with SA economy to recover in 2 years

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 tan 16.54 million, while deaths were more than 655 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 4.33 million, as well as the most deaths - almost 149 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

A World Health Organization official on Tuesday described the Covid-19 pandemic as “one big wave” and warned against complacency in the northern hemisphere summer since the infection does not share influenza’s tendency to follow seasons.

WHO officials have been at pains to avoid describing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases like those in Hong Kong as “waves” as this suggests the virus is behaving in ways beyond human control, when in fact concerted action can slow its spread.

Margaret Harris repeated that message in a virtual briefing in Geneva. “We are in the first wave. It’s going to be one big wave. It’s going to go up and down a bit. The best thing is to flatten it and turn it into just something lapping at your feet,” she said.

Pointing to high case numbers at the height of the US summer, she urged vigilance in applying measures and warned against mass gatherings.

“People are still thinking about seasons. What we all need to get our heads around is this is a new virus and... this one is behaving differently,” she said.

READ MORE | WHO says Covid-19 pandemic is 'one big wave', not seasonal

A conservative man in Texas has written a powerful essay saying he once believed the coronavirus was a hoax, but has now had a dramatic change of heart after he and his entire family tested positive for Covid-19 following a party at his house.

In a column for Texas LGBTQ news outlet Dallas Voice, published last weekend, consultant and lobbyist Tony Green admitted to "travelling deep into the conspiracy trap over Covid-19," adding that he is a "gay conservative" who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.

"All the defiant behavior of Trump's more radical and rowdy cult followers, I participated in it. I was a hard-ass that stood up for my 'God-given rights,'" he wrote.

"In great haste, I began prognosticating the alphabet soup about this 'scamdemic.' I believed the virus to be a hoax. I believed the mainstream media and the Democrats were using it to create panic, crash the economy and destroy Trump's chances at reelection."

Green's belief that the virus was fake prompted him and his partner to host a house party on June 13 for family members. He did not say how many people attended.

The next morning, Green woke up sick, and over the following days the virus continued to spread throughout both his and his partner's families - including his father-in-law's mother, who died of Covid-19 on July 1.

READ MORE | A man who thought Covid-19 was a 'scamdemic' went from denier to believer after he got his family sick

LATEST RESEARCH

As remdesivir and dexamethasone made headlines in the past months as drugs that could potentially prevent many Covid-19-related deaths, a team led by Sumit Chanda, a professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, have identified 21 existing drugs that could halt replication of SARS-CoV-2.

The scientists analysed a large number of existing medications to find out which ones may block the replication of SARS-CoV-2. From this collection, 21 drugs were found to be effective in blocking the replication of the novel coronavirus in dosages that have already been deemed safe for use in patients.

Four of these medications are also known to work well together with remdesivir, which is currently a standard treatment for Covid-19.

"Remdesivir has proven successful at shortening the recovery time for patients in the hospital, but the drug doesn't work for everyone who receives it. That's not good enough," Chanda stated in a news release. "As infection rates continue to rise in America and around the world, the urgency remains to find affordable, effective, and readily available drugs that can complement the use of remdesivir, as well as drugs that could be given prophylactically or at the first sign of infection on an outpatient basis."

The new research was published in the journal Nature.

READ MORE | Study identifies 21 existing drugs that could treat Covid-19

Some of us have been doing our best to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus that is ravaging the world. On the other hand, there are others who simply refuse to wear face masks and practise physical distancing, and experts may have some insight into their non-compliance with these guidelines.

According to a new study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, participants with ‘Dark Triad’ traits, including narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, are less likely to engage in preventative behaviour.

More than this, they also found that they are more likely to stockpile goods such as food and toilet paper.

This study reinforces the findings of a previous study this year, published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science (currently available on the PsyArXiv preprint website), that show an association between people with these traits and ignoring preventive measures to fight the virus.

READ MORE | Narcissists and psychopaths more likely to defy coronavirus guidelines

While our communities are being bombarded by a mysterious virus, many of our social media feeds have also been taken over by Covid-19: the latest death figures, tips for handling living under lockdown, education plans, retrenchment announcements, etc.

But the virus has brought on another crisis – an infodemic – where false information is touted as gospel and billionaires and governments are attacked for trying to manipulate the masses. Among the chaos of half-truths and blatant lies, the anti-vax movement has entered debates around Covid-19 vaccination.

The most prominent example was the viral video Plandemic – an insane short "documentary" on how the coronavirus is part of a wider plan by a secret elite to control the population, and that the Covid-19 vaccine is being designed to kill instead of protect.

The scary part? It was watched and shared millions of times before being taken off YouTube, probably still existing in various forms all over the internet.

READ MORE | The rise of the anti-vax movement in the age of coronavirus

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