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Infectious Diseases

25 May 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Lockdown Level 3 from 1 June - but still no cigarette sales

Your latest coronavirus news: The president has announced that the country will move to Level 3 of the lockdown from 1 June; but, the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products will remain banned - you will be able to buy alcohol, for home consumption only.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 22 583.

According to the latest update, 429 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 11 100 recoveries.

In a statement, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the country currently has a recovery rate of 49%, above the global average of 42%.

So far, more than 583 850 tests have been conducted, with close to 19 500 new tests..

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

After nearly 60 days of tough Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a drop to Level 3, bringing a significant easing of measures to combat the deadly pandemic.

However, with the easing of restrictions, came a warning from the president: "…the risk of a massive increase in infections is now greater than it has been since the start of the outbreak in our country."

Ramaphosa's announcement on Sunday evening confirmed that most South Africans would be heading back to work, to restart the already ailing economy.

South Africa has been in Level 4 and Level 5 lockdown since March 27 to give health facilities time to prepare for the inevitable growth of infections that has gradually begun in recent weeks.

READ MORE | SA to move to Level 3, but risk of infections now even greater, warns Ramaphosa

The sale of cigarettes and tobacco products will remain banned as the entire country transitions to level 3 of the national lockdown from June. But consumers will be able to buy alcohol for home consumption only "specified days and for limited hours".

During an address on Sunday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that following consultation with various bodies, Cabinet decided that the whole of South Africa would move to level 3 next week.

Cigarette and tobacco products have been banned since the start of the nationwide lockdown in late March, despite opposition from industry bodies.

The move to level 3 will see more sectors of the economy open for business, said Ramaphosa. Industries that reopen will have to institute health protocols to limit the spread of Covid-19.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Cigarette ban to remain under level 3, but you can buy booze

On Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the whole country will be moved to Alert Level 3 of the national lockdown on June 1st.

This will bring much more freedom to citizens: curfews will be dropped, exercise will be allowed at any time, and alcohol sales by liquor stores (though not bars) will be permitted. Domestic air travel for business reasons will be allowed too, and more air travel will be phased in on dates to be announced.

All manufacturing, mining, construction, financial services, professional and business services, information technology, communications, government services, and media services can be fully reopened from June 1, Ramaphosa said. Wholesale and retail trade will be fully opened, including stores, spaza shops and informal traders.

READ MORE | These businesses must remain shut during Level 3

In his announcement of what will be permitted during Level 3 of the national lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government is considering proposals to allow the partial reopening of religious activities.

"We have had fruitful discussions with leaders of the interfaith religious community on their proposals for the partial opening of spiritual worship and counselling services, subject to certain norms and standards," Ramaphosa said in a national address on Sunday evening.

For now, all public gatherings – apart from funerals and office meetings – will remain banned when the country enters Level 3 on 1 June.

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) said that it had urged Ramaphosa at a meeting this week to allow places of worship to reopen under Level 3 of the lockdown under strict guidelines, including physical distancing.

READ MORE | Partial opening of religious services is being considered, Ramaphosa says

As President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the downgrade to Level 3 of the national Covid-19 lockdown, he thanked scientists for challenging and pushing the government's response to the global pandemic.

"We appreciate the diverse and sometimes challenging views of the scientists and health professionals in our country, which stimulate public debate and enrich our response," he said in his address on Sunday evening.

Ramaphosa announced that most of the economy, which came to a grinding halt under Level 5 restrictions on 27 March, would begin moving again as more of the population returned to work.

News24 reported that the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19 came out in support of Professor Glenda Gray, who spoke out against some of the government's regulations during lockdown.

READ MORE | The science behind Level 3 - Ramaphosa lauds 'diverse and sometimes challenging views'

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 Monday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 5.38 million, while deaths were close to 344 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 1.64 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 96 500.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Scientists involved in one of the world's leading studies into finding a vaccine for the coronavirus say there is currently only a 50% chance of success because the number of people in Britain with the virus is falling too quickly.

The Oxford University mission to find a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus is in "a race against the virus disappearing, and against time," Adam Hill, director at Oxford University's Jenner Institute, said this weekend.

Hill told The Telegraph newspaper that the number of people in the UK with the virus was falling at a rate that meant there might not be enough people to test the experimental vaccine known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.

"At the moment, there's a 50% chance that we get no result at all," he said.

READ MORE | Oxford scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine say there is now only a 50% chance of success

LATEST RESEARCH

A drug supported and even taken by United States President Donald Trump as a potential weapon against the new coronavirus simply doesn't seem to work, another major study finds.

In fact, hydroxychloroquine, as well as a related medicine, chloroquine, may even raise the risk for death and serious heart rhythm disorders in people who use it, an international team of researchers reported.

The two drugs are approved to help treat illnesses such as malaria and lupus. Early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump labeled the drugs potential "game changers" against the disease, despite little good evidence supporting such claims. Google searches by Americans looking for the medicines surged after his endorsement.

And last Monday, Trump told reporters he'd been taking hydroxychloroquine for about a week and a half in an effort to help prevent infection or illness with SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus. He said he was taking the drug with the approval of the White House physician.

However, the new research, published May 22 in The Lancet, is the latest in a long line of studies suggesting that the drug is useless against the new coronavirus and Covid-19. And its authors say it may offer the most definitive proof yet.

READ MORE | More evidence hydroxychloroquine won't help, may harm Covid-19 patients

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