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Infectious Diseases

Updated 29 May 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Level 3 regulations, SAHRC's schools concern, and SANDF inquiry ongoing

Your latest coronavirus news: Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has released the regulations governing lockdown Level 3, which gets under way on 1 June; the SA Human Rights Commission has written to the basic education minister to recommend that she delay the return to school of Grade 7 and 12 pupils; and the minister of defence says the inquiry into the death of Collins Khosa is not complete.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 27 403.

According to the latest update, 577 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There had been 14 370 recoveries.

More than 655 700 tests have been been conducted so far, with more than 20 700 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Thursday released the regulations governing lockdown Level 3, which gets under way on 1 June.

She said the entire country will move to Level 3, regardless of whether it is a Covid-19 hotspot. She added, though, that additional restrictions may apply for districts with a high level of infections.

Level 3 regulations permit the sale of liquor between Monday and Thursday, from 09:00 and 17:00, but tobacco sales remain prohibited.

Dlamini-Zuma said, as the economy reopens, practising hygiene measures, such as handwashing and maintaining a safe social distance, will be "most important" to fight Covid-19 - in absence of a cure or vaccine.

Here's everything you will be allowed to do, and what you won't, when Level 3 commences on 1 June.

READ MORE | Explained: This is what you can and can't do under Level 3 of the lockdown

The SA Human Rights Commission has written to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to recommend that she delay the return to school of Grade 7 and 12 pupils.

They are set to return on 1 June but according to the commission, the Northern Cape office had indicated schools in that province would only be ready by 8 June.

It added various teachers' unions also said the required conditions have not been met.

According to school governing bodies, about 3 500 schools did not have enough water.

"All these reports give the commission concerns whether - and considering that only three days remain before the date of opening as well as the amount of work that appears still remaining to be done - the schools will be ready to receive learners with the expected levels of safety by 1 June 2020," it stated.

READ MORE | Rights commission says schools not ready for return of pupils

Empirical evidence would suggest smokers are "at risk of a negative outcome" with Covid-19, but a study in which smokers are exposed to the virus to prove this point cannot be done as it would be unethical, the acting director-general of the Department of Health, Anban Pillay, told the health committees of both Houses of Parliament on Thursday.

This after FF Plus MP Philip van Staden said he had quit smoking during the lockdown because he "won't buy smokes on the black market".

After an enquiry from committee chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo - who is a medical doctor and former health MEC - Van Staden confirmed he had quit completely, saying he was doing quite well.

He asked how many people being treated in hospitals for Covid-19 were smokers, and how many who died of the virus had smoked.

READ MORE | Empirical evidence suggests 'negative outcomes' for smokers, says acting health DG

Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Thursday said the inquiry into the death of Collins Khosa is not complete and, as such, there can be no determination on whether he was murdered.

Earlier on Thursday, the legal team representing Khosa's family rejected an inquiry report by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), which apparently cleared soldiers of causing Khosa's death.

"The report by the SANDF is rubbish. We do not accept it, the evidence completely contradicts this report. It is ridiculous to say he died of some other cause," Wikus Steyl, of Ian Levitt Attorneys, told News24 on Thursday.

News24 reported earlier that the board, led by Brigadier Viscount Ngcobo, found that Khosa and his brother-in-law, Thabiso Muvhango, undermined the female soldiers who approached them about drinking alcohol in their yard.

READ MORE | Collins Khosa inquiry ongoing, says defence minister

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 Friday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 5.76 million, while deaths were more than 358 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - 1.71 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 101 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

President Donald Trump on Thursday marked the "sad milestone" of 100 000 coronavirus deaths in the United States, after his earlier silence prompted criticism that he was failing in his duty to console victims and their loved ones.

"We have just reached a very sad milestone with the coronavirus pandemic deaths reaching 100 000," Trump posted on Twitter, about 16 hours after the death toll passed the threshold according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

"To all of the families & friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!"

The US death toll, from 1.7 million confirmed infections, is by far the highest of any nation, and critics have accused the president of an inadequate early response to the pandemic.

READ MORE | After silence, Trump marks 100 000 virus deaths in US

England launched a "test and trace" system on Thursday, the latest weapon deployed in a battle to halt the coronavirus's spread in one of the worst affected countries in the world.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was people's "civic duty" to comply with the new rules which will seek to track down people at risk from the disease.

"It's incredibly important for anybody who gets symptoms... immediately to isolate at home and to get a test and not to leave the house," he told BBC radio.

Under the system, a team of 25 000 tracers - supported by 20 000 testers and up to 7 000 clinicians - will text, email or call people who test positive for the virus and ask who they have been in close contact with.

READ MORE | Coronavirus test and trace system begins in England

LATEST RESEARCH

People who have a flawed gene linked to Alzheimer's disease may face a higher risk of Covid-19, an international team of researchers reports.

Part of the increased risk among people with dementia may owe to high rates of new coronavirus infections in nursing homes. But this study suggests genetics may also be a factor.

The APOE e4e4 gene variant is known to increase Alzheimer's risk up to 14 times. It also increases heart disease risk.

Medical school researchers at the University of Exeter in England and the University of Connecticut analyzed data from more than 382 000 people of European ancestry.

READ MORE | Alzheimer's gene linked to severe Covid-19 risk

In the race to find treatments for Covid-19, the antiviral drug remdesivir has received much of the attention. But researchers say a class of long-used drugs called interferons also looks promising.

Trials testing the medications are underway in several countries. A small study published last week in The Lancet found that a three-drug regimen, containing an interferon, helped hospitalised Covid-19 patients go home a few days sooner.

But there should be a bigger research push to test interferons as stand-alone treatments, said Eleanor Fish, a professor of immunology at the University of Toronto in Canada.

In Wuhan, China, where the pandemic originated, doctors used the drug interferon alfa-2b to treat some hospitalised patients who were not yet sick enough to need a ventilator.

READ MORE | Could interferon drugs help fight 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.

READ MORE: Coronavirus 101 

Image credit: Getty Images