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Infectious Diseases

19 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Latest on Western Cape testing, as peak gets 'closer and closer'

The Western Cape government has announced that it has cleared the province's Covid-19 testing backlog, as the province gets "closer and closer" to the peak.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 83 890.

According to the latest update, 1 737 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 44 920 recoveries

So far, more than 1.22 million tests have been conducted, with 27 362 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The Western Cape government has announced that it has cleared the province's Covid-19 testing backlog.

The announcement, as well as several other significant updates, was revealed on Thursday at a weekly briefing led by Premier Alan Winde.

In recent weeks, questions have been raised about government's testing strategy when it was revealed that there was a testing backlog of over 96 000.

As at 25 May, the Western Cape had a backlog of around 18 000 tests, while the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng each had backlogs of over 22 000 cases.

READ MORE | Western Cape clears Covid-19 testing backlog, but cases expected to peak before end of June

Gauteng Premier David Makhura says his government would be in a "difficult position" if it were to push for the closure of certain sectors, but it would do so if Covid-19 infections became uncontrollable.

He told the Gauteng legislature during a sitting on Thursday that the country's economic hub would be in the midst of the pandemic's surge within the next two months. He expected it to be "tough".

Makhura also admitted the peak would likely hit sooner than initially calculated, especially as more sectors of the economy were opening.

Members of the provincial legislature debated and voted on budget speeches for the 2020/21 financial year.

READ MORE | Makhura not ruling out closing sectors in Gauteng if infections become uncontrollable

The Western Cape's status as an iconic tourism destination may have contributed to its early and rapid rise in Covid-19 cases relative to the rest of the country.

This was speculated during the province's weekly digicon update on Thursday on the Western Cape's battle with the pandemic.

Asked why the Western Cape had ended up with the most Covid-19 cases in South Africa, the Western Cape Department of Health's head, Dr Keith Cloete, said it may have been significant that there had been "quite a lot of people who visited the Western Cape" at the end of March.

READ MORE | These included tourists from outside South Africa, and returning locals, who had visited overseas.

An application brought by One SA leader Mmusi Maimane, challenging the decision to send children back to school under Level 3 lockdown, should be dismissed, argued Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's legal representative.

Maimane has dragged President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Motshekga to court to challenge their decision.

Arguing before a full bench in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, advocate Marius Oosthuizen said Motshekga and her team have been planning since March for the reopening of schools.

"She has been planning and preparing since mid-March, the department has been developing all these plans, all these preventative measures, they spent millions of rands... they have started procurement of PPEs [personal protective equipment]. Why? Because they don't want children to be walking into a raging fire," he said.

READ MORE | Schools reopening: 'State worked hard to ensure children won't be walking into Covid-19 raging fire'

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 Thursday night, positive cases worldwide were close to 8.42 million, while deaths were more than 451 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 2.18 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 118 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

The World Health Organisation said on Thursday that a few hundred million Covid-19 vaccine doses could be produced by the end of the year - and be targeted at those most vulnerable to the virus.

The UN health agency said it was working on that assumption, with a view to two billion doses by the end of 2021, as pharmaceutical firms rush to find a vaccine.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said researchers were working on more than 200 vaccine candidates around the world, including 10 that are in human testing.

"If we're very lucky, there will be one or two successful candidates before the end of this year," she told a virtual press conference.

READ MORE | WHO eyes hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses before 2021

LATEST RESEARCH

As we wash our hands, wear our masks and practise physical distancing in an attempt not to get infected with Covid-19, there might be another factor we aren't taking into account – public toilets.

Ever heard of the phenomenon called the “toilet plume”, where germs are ejected several metres into the air when you flush the toilet with the lid up? Turns out, there might be a chance that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, can also travel in this plume of aerosol droplets.

Scientists have found that coronavirus particles that may already be present in a person’s stool, can be shot up in the air through aerosol droplets when flushing, too. The research was published on 16 June 2020 in the journal Physics of Fluids.

According to the researchers, transmission through the faecal-oral route is common for many viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

READ MORE | Keep a lid on it: Flushing a toilet may spread Covid-19

The number of coronavirus cases and Covid-19 deaths continue to rise worldwide, but it is a select share of the population that may be at greater risk. This is according to a recent modelling study, carried out by a team of 16 researchers and published in The Lancet Global Health journal, using data from 188 countries.

The study proposed that one in five of the world’s population – an estimated 1.7 billion people, (22% of the world’s population) have at least one underlying health condition that could increase their risk of severe Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, in the event that they do become infected.

The authors’ results were based on disease prevalence data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2017; UN population estimates for 2020; and the list of underlying health conditions relevant to Covid-19 (according to official current guidelines).

According to the study’s results, the following populations are at increased risk of severe Covid-19 (with at least one underlying health condition linked to Covid-19):

- Countries with ageing populations - African countries with high HIV/Aids prevalence - Small island nations with high diabetes prevalence

READ MORE | Underlying illnesses and the risk of severe Covid-19, if infected - what a modelling study shows

Confinement during the coronavirus outbreak has made it exceptionally difficult for kids who are struggling with feelings of anxiety and fear related to missing out on their everyday activities, such as being at school, seeing their friends and having access to activities they may not be able to engage in at home.

This may be even harder on kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as the loss of their daily routine and a lack of interpersonal and social interaction could cause mental health problems, or worsen ADHD symptoms, researchers in a recent study said.

To understand how the Covid-19 crisis is affecting the mental health of kids with ADHD, the researchers invited 241 parents of school-aged children (6 to 15 years old) to partake in a survey. The results were published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry this month and received ethical approval from Shanghai Xinhua Hospital in China.

In their paper, the team of 10 researchers wrote that all adults are facing a serious challenge during the pandemic. In addition to this, parents' (of kids with ADHD) anxiety over the situation may work to further worsen their children’s psychological well-being and behavioural problems.

READ MORE | Is the Covid-19 pandemic worsening the mental health of children with ADHD?

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