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Infectious Diseases

26 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Lockdown curfew, understanding level 4, and high-speed science

Your latest coronavirus news: As of 1 May, a national curfew from 20:00 to 05:00 will be in place, with some exceptions; South Africans will be allowed to buy clothes and cigarettes as part of level 4; and scientific research of Covid-19 has been published at an unprecedented scale and speed.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 4 361.

According to the latest update, 86 deaths have been recorded in the country.

So far, 161 004 tests have been conducted, with more than 8 600 new tests.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

As of 1 May, a national curfew from 20:00 to 05:00 will be in place and it will be applicable to everyone except essential workers traveling to and from work.

The country is expected to move from a Level 5 to a Level 4 lockdown, allowing limited economic activity but keeping most existing measures in place.

On Saturday, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel addressed the media on the Level 4 lockdown.

While restaurants will be closed for sit-down meals when the country moves to Level 4 next Friday, the movement of takeaway food will be allowed.

READ MORE | Lockdown curfew from 20:00 to 05:00 starting on 1 May

It is now up to South Africans to ensure that the country doesn't move back to a Level 5 lockdown, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Saturday.

On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the government would use a five-level phased approach towards easing lockdown restrictions. The country is currently on Level 5 – the most restrictive level – but this will be eased to Level 4 on 1 May.

On Saturday, Dlamini-Zuma unpacked what this meant.

"Level 4 means the lockdown is still in place," she said.

READ MORE | Up to South Africans to ensure we don't go back to Level 5

The rate of Covid-19 infections is lower than the global one, according to the acting director-general of the Department of Health, Dr Anban Pillay.

At a press briefing on Saturday with Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel, Pillay said currently, the trend suggested about 3% of people, who were tested, were positive.

This has been the trend since testing started.

"That is way lower than the global experience, which has been much higher at around 10%."

READ MORE | SA's Covid-19 infection rate 'lower than the global average'

From 1 May, South Africans will be allowed to buy clothes and cigarettes, and order fast food.

A number of businesses can also re-open, it was announced at a media briefing on Saturday.

South Africa will embark on a staged reopening of the economy, starting with a level 4 on the first of May, to help slow down the spread of coronavirus, and ensure that health authorities are not overwhelmed, cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said. 

READ MORE | Lockdown level 4: What will be allowed

The unconditional sale of liquor will only be permitted when South Africa reaches Level 2 of its "risk adjusted strategy" to fight Covid-19. 

Details of the country’s five-level economic reopening were released on Saturday, including when which industries will be allowed to return to work. South Africa will be moving from Level 5 to 4 on May 1st.

Cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma warned that if there was a sudden surge in infections, South Africa - or the most-affected parts of the country - could move back to a stricter level.

READ MORE | You’ll only be able to buy booze at Level 3 - and only on some weekday mornings

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 Saturday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 2.88 million, while deaths were more than 200 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - nearly 930 000, as well as the most deaths - more than 53 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Leading manufacturers of cleaning products have issued statements warning their customers not to attempt to inject themselves with disinfectants after US President Donald Trump incorrectly claimed that doing so might cure COVID-19.

Trump suggested at a White House coronavirus briefing on Thursday that because disinfectant can kill the virus on external surfaces, perhaps it could be used internally to treat coronavirus patients.

"I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute," he said. "One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" he said. "So it'd be interesting to check that."

He added: "I'm not a doctor. But I'm, like, a person that has a good you-know-what."

The president also suggested that ultraviolet light, used internally, might help treat Covid-19.

Following his comments, RB, which manufacturers disinfectants for the European market, issued a statement urging the public never to attempt to consume its products.

READ MORE | Bleach manufacturers have warned people not to inject themselves with disinfectant after Trump falsely suggested it might cure the coronavirus

LATEST RESEARCH

Epidemiological terms are fast becoming part of everyday language. Terms like “flattening the curve”, “antibody tests” and “infection control” pepper conversations in supermarket queues and Zoom meetings.

Scientists must publicly share and explain, more now than ever before, the science behind efforts to stop the Covid-19 virus in its tracks. And, apart from some fake news and bad armchair epidemiology, it generally seems to work. In my experience at least, most people seem to talk about the virus with a decent scientific understanding of the basic mechanisms of transmission and the need to follow protective measures.

The communication of science to the public can however have negative consequences if the science underpinning the conversation is not as robust as it ideally should be. This risk is heightened in an emergency environment where not all the scientific method’s usual checks and balances are in place.

The rate at which scientific knowledge about Sars-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) has been acquired is a remarkable collective achievement. Just five months ago no-one knew about the virus’s existence, but today it is the subject of study on an unprecedented scale.

In the face of a public health emergency, academic secrecy appears to have been suspended and scientific collaboration has increased. Leading medical journals have made their Covid-19 articles free-to-read for all. More than 200 clinical trials have been launched, in many cases uniting hospitals and laboratories from different countries. The hunt is on for a vaccine, a number of antiviral drug trials are on the go and new diagnostic tests are rapidly being developed and validated.

READ MORE | Covid-19: The pros and cons of high-speed science

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