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Infectious Diseases

Updated 08 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Lockdown latest, key virus finding in SA, and WhatsApp tightens rules

Your latest coronavirus news: The government will assess the effectiveness of the 21-day lockdown in the coming days; researchers sequence the Covid-19 virus genome in SA; and WhatsApp moves to curb the spread of misinformation about the virus.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 1 749.

The country recorded its thirteenth death, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the government will assess the effectiveness of the 21-day lockdown, which is due to end on 16 April, in the coming days.

He was speaking on the sidelines of his visit to the National Water Command Centre at Rand Water in Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa was joined by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu at the command centre, where they held virtual meetings across several provinces and municipalities.

"We are still doing an assessment of the effectiveness of the lockdown, in terms of compliance. We are finding that many of our people throughout our country are abiding by the lockdown and its regulations," he said

READ MORE | Ramaphosa defends 21-day lockdown decision, govt set for more talks

A Cape Town man who was arrested for posting a video about alleged contaminated Covid-19 test kits, has been released on a warning to appear in court for a second time.

Police did not allow the media to enter the court to cover his appearance on Tuesday.

Stephen Birch of Parow appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court for the alleged contravention of Regulation 11 (5) under the Disaster Management Act.

The contravention included an alleged intention to deceive people about Covid-19, the infection status of any person and any measures by the government to address Covid-19.

READ MORE | Man who posted fake contaminated Covid-19 test kits video in court, media barred from covering

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize says no health professional will be forced to work in an area where they do not feel protected.

"We need our staff to be protected and to be safe," Mkhize told the media at a briefing on Tuesday. 

"Health professionals must take all the precautions from being infected. Our staff are our primary soldiers in this fight."

The minister was at the Motsepe Foundation’s offices in Sandton, Johannesburg, to receive a donation of protective gear from businessman Patrice Motsepe and SA entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe.

READ MORE | Mkhize: Health workers are our primary soldiers in coronavirus fight, they have to be safe

The former deputy minister of higher education, Mduduzi Manana, has attempted to set the record straight on the controversial visit by Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to his private residence.

His statement comes after a social media post went viral which appears to be a screen grab of a post from Manana's Instagram page. It shows the two politicians and several other people having a meal during the nationwide lockdown.

The caption reads: "It was great to host a former colleague and dear sister Cde Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams [minister of communications and digital technologies] on her way back from executing critical and essential services required for the effective functioning of our country during the nationwide lockdown."

On Tuesday, Manana said in a statement both he and Ndabeni-Abrahams were on essential business, organising donations of personal protective equipment for students working on "Covid-19 Digital Services".

READ MORE | Ndabeni-Abrahams' lockdown picture: It was not social lunch, visit was for 'essential business' - Manana

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.

Positive cases worldwide are more than 1 431 000, while deaths were more than 82 000.

The United States has nearly 400 000 cases, with Spain, Italy, Germany and France all with more than 100 000.

Three countries now have more than 10 000 deaths Italy (more than 17 000), Spain (more than 14 000), and France (more than 10 000).

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

WhatsApp on Tuesday placed new limits on message forwarding as part of an effort to curb the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.

The new policy limits users to forwarding certain messages to one "chat" at a time, aiming to limit the rapid propagation of content which is provocative but likely to be false.

The Facebook-owned messaging platform said it took the action to enable people to concentrate on personal and private communications during the health crisis.

In recent weeks, "we've seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation," WhatsApp said in a blog post.

READ MORE | WhatsApp tightens rules on sharing to curb spread of fake virus news

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent the night in an intensive care unit after his condition badly deteriorated on Monday.

Johnson, who was admitted to hospital on Sunday with "persistent" symptoms of Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, was moved into intensive care at around 19:00 GMT on Monday.

He has been given oxygen treatment but has not yet been placed on a ventilator, Downing Street indicated on Tuesday morning.

"Since Sunday evening, the Prime Minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas' Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus," his spokesman said in a statement on Monday evening.

READ MORE | Boris Johnson spent the night in intensive care, in case he needed ventilation

The number of people who have died in New York City as a result of Covid-19 surpassed those who died in terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, officials said on Tuesday.

As of April 7, at least 3,202 people have died in New York from the novel coronavirus, according to a daily summary released by New York City officials on Tuesday.

The 9/11 attacks killed 2,753 people in New York City at the site of the World Trade Center and 2,977 across the USA in the attacks that occurred in New York City, Washington, DC, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

City health officials on Tuesday morning also announced that in the previous 24 hours 727 more people in New York City had died from the virus - the largest single-day deaths from the virus total the city has so far reported.

READ MORE | More people have now died due to Covid-19 in New York than did in the 9/11 attacks

LATEST RESEARCH

While everyday life has come to a near standstill for many people, scientists around the world are working around the clock to understand and halt the new coronavirus pandemic. A group of African researchers have also been hard at work and achieved a breakthrough by sequencing the Covid-19 virus genome in South Africa. 

The genome was obtained from an infected South African patient who had returned to the country after travelling to Italy.

The University of the Western Cape said in a statement on Monday that this sequencing has provided a genetic “fingerprint” and can help us understand and control the spread of the pandemic.

The report was published on virological.org.

READ MORE | SA scientists make key coronavirus discovery - the lead researcher tells us more

Scientists are in a race to beat the new coronavirus. Whether it will be a vaccine or something completely different, we’re all hoping that intensive research will lead to a way to slow down or stop the progress of this global outbreak. Good news is that researchers at the University of Minnesota (UM) have made great progress in this regard.

The team, which involved nine researchers, investigated the structure of the "spike" protein on the surface of the new coronavirus – officially named SARS-CoV-2 – by using X-ray crystallography.

This technique can help scientists determine the three-dimensional (3D) structure of molecules, such as proteins, explains Science Direct. With this technique, the researchers created a 3D model of what the spike protein looks like and how it latches onto human cells.

Their research was published in the journal Nature. 

READ MORE | Scientists discover 'spike' protein on the new coronavirus - what does this mean?

A drug originally developed to treat Ebola is getting a second chance in the spotlight, as research teams in the United States, Asia and Europe race to test it against the new coronavirus.

The drug, called remdesivir, has already been given to a limited number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19, on a "compassionate use" basis. That included the first US patient diagnosed with the disease – a 35-year-old man in Washington state who sought care on 19 January, shortly after returning home from Wuhan, China.

He ended up in the hospital, and after his lung function deteriorated, he was placed on oxygen and later given an infusion of remdesivir. He improved the next day, his doctors reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The problem is, individual cases do not prove that a treatment works, or would even be safe if given to large numbers of patients

READ MORE | Trials begin for potential Covid-19 drug - it was initially developed to treat Ebola

Even after people with mild cases of the new coronavirus feel better, new research shows that half still have the virus for up to eight days after symptoms are gone.

That's the conclusion of a small international study of 16 Covid-19 patients in China. The researchers took several throat swabs from all of them.

"The most significant finding from our study is that half of the patients kept shedding the virus even after resolution of their symptoms," said co-lead author Lokesh Sharma, an instructor at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. "More severe infections may have even longer shedding times."

It took about five days from the time patients were infected until symptoms appeared, and about eight days before they disappeared. Patients were contagious for one to eight days, the researchers said in a news release from the American Thoracic Society.

READ MORE | Coronavirus hangs around even after symptoms subside


HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections 

• 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