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Infectious Diseases

02 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Minister explains schools delay, and caution urged on booze

Your latest coronavirus news: Why the minister decided to postpone the return of pupils to schools; and South Africans urged to not panic buy, and over-indulge in alcohol.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 34 357.

According to the latest update, 705 deaths have been recorded in the country.

So far, 742 742 tests have been conducted, with 17 617 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says reports given to her department indicate that schools across the country are on different levels of readiness, leading to her decision to postpone the return of pupils to schools until next week.

At a briefing in Rustenburg on Monday, Motshekga explained that reports from the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), Rand Water and heads of departments all gave an idea on where schools were at with the phased reopening.

But it gave a negative outlook and the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) decided to that the sector needed more time to "mop out" and prepare.

From the beginning, the delivery of PPEs and the issue of water and sanitation posed a challenge. Motshekga has given provinces this week to finalise these issues, including the cleaning of schools.

READ MORE | Schools reopening: What still needs to be done to get pupils back in classrooms

The DA on Monday laid a charge against Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with Parliament's Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' Interests, alleging that she lied to the public to justify the ban on sales of tobacco products.

On 29 April Dlamini-Zuma shocked the country, especially the smokers, when she announced that the cigarette sales ban would remain in place during Level 4 of the lockdown.

This, days after President Cyril Ramaphosa said cigarette sales would be allowed on that level.

She said Cabinet decided to rescind its decision to allow the sale of cigarettes after it considered 2 000 public submissions supporting the ban.

READ MORE | Cigarette ban: DA lodges complaint against Dlamini-Zuma

South Africans have been urged not to panic buy or over-indulge in alcohol by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, who also announced the latest Covid-19 statistics on Monday.

As Level 3 opened on Monday, and bottle stores opened legally after 65 days since March 26, the national health head urged his countrymen to "reduce their consumption".

Long queues formed at many bottle stores around the country on Monday following the ban on alcohol being lifted.

Mkhize was on a whistle-stop tour of the Western Cape's four primary temporary new "field hospitals" - set up to help the health system cope with the anticipated "peak" of Covid-19 cases.

READ MORE | Don't panic buy, over-indulge in alcohol, Mkhize urges as new Covid-19 cases spike by 1 647

Fishing, hunting as well as self-drive visits to game reserves and national parks are permitted under lockdown Level 3, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said on Monday.

"All fishing, including recreational fishing, is permitted with the exception of charter fishing," Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy confirmed in a statement.

"Fishers must ensure that they have a valid permit. All regulations relating to social distancing, health protocols, movement and the prohibition of groups and gatherings apply."

According to the department, wildlife auctions can take place online, while live auctions comprising a maximum of 50 people were permitted should online auctions not be possible.

READ MORE | Fishing, hunting, game drives allowed in Level 3

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 Monday night, positive cases worldwide were almost 6.23 million, while deaths were almost 374 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - just short of 1.8 million, as well as the most deaths - almost 105 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

China on Monday accused the US of "selfishness" after President Donald Trump said he would terminate the US relationship with the World Health Organization.

The US and China have clashed repeatedly on different topics and on Friday Trump said he would sever ties with the UN health body, which he had previously accused of being too lenient with China.

The WHO's massive loss of funding from the US comes as the deadly coronavirus - which surfaced in a Chinese province late last year - rages on.

"The international community generally disagrees with such US acts of selfishness, evasion of responsibility, and undermining of international cooperation against the epidemic," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a regular press briefing on Monday.

READ MORE | China accuses US of selfishness, blackmail over cutting ties with WHO

LATEST RESEARCH

As experts around the world are trying to find an effective treatment for Covid-19, many clinicians are using existing drugs that have already been approved to treat other diseases, in the hope that these would make a difference.

When an existing drug is repurposed for another disease, it is referred to as being used “off-label”. During the past months, Health24 reported extensively on various drugs being investigated for the treatment of Covid-19, including the Solidarity Trial launched by the World Health Organization in March 2020.

Now, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have catalogued every known off-label effort by various clinicians since the start of the outbreak.

In this process, the researchers have recorded more than 100 different off-label treatments, according to the news release.

READ MORE | More than 100 off-label and experimental treatments currently being used for Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic is a double crisis: as much as the virus is a global threat to physical health, it has also quickly become a challenge to mental health. And, as resilient as we may be during this bizarre time, the effects of lockdown and quarantine can be especially tough for those who don't have strong support systems. By the end of March, more than 100 countries worldwide had instituted either a full or partial lockdown, the BBC notes.

The Collaborative Outcomes study on Health and Functioning during Infection Times (COH-FIT) is currently running a study that is measuring the impact of the pandemic on people’s physical and mental health worldwide. It is the largest global study of its kind, and is being launched by over 200 international investigators, led by Professor Christoph Correll from the US/Germany, and Dr Marco Solmi from Italy.

Through a survey, the study aims to collect information from over 100 000 participants from more than 40 countries and six continents. In South Africa, the study has been approved by Stellenbosch University's Health Research Ethics Committee and is being led by Professor Soraya Seedat and Dr Georgina Spies. Health24 chats to Dr Spies about the study.

READ MORE | SA involved in massive global study on effects of Covid-19 pandemic - and you can play your part

While every recovery from from Covid-19 is a relief, we are still not familiar with all the after-effects of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes this disease.

A great concern for doctors is that some patients appear to test positive again after recovering from Covid-19, suggesting that they could still be carriers of the virus even after they’ve been discharged.

The study was conducted by a team from the Affiliated Hospital of Zunyi Medical University in China and was published in JAMA. The research team collected clinical data from patients who recovered from Covid-19 and were discharged from a hospital designated for Covid-19 in Guizhou Province, China.

The researchers examined data from 69 patients, with a median age of 33. From the base of the follow-up results, 11 of these 69 patients tested positive for Covid-19 after they were discharged. All of the patients were tested with the RT-PCR method, which is currently the most common test used to diagnose SARS-CoV-2.

READ MORE | Why medical experts should keep track of discharged 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.

Image credit: Getty Images