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Infectious Diseases

25 March 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Naming and shaming, Olympics postponed, and can we kill the virus?

Your latest coronavirus news: The health minister reveals another surge in confirmed cases and threatens to name and shame those unwilling to share personal information; postponing the Olympics games is official, and why can't we simply kill this virus?

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 709, and the health minister has confirmed that two people are in ICU.

But he also confirmed that the large majority of confirmed cases are doing well, and five have now tested negative for the virus.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has warned South Africans the government will take decisive steps to deal with people infected with the Covid-19 virus who refuse to provide their personal information.

Mkhize said should a patient refuse to provide the government with personal information - including a list of contacts - it would disclose his or her name to the public.

He was speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday following President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement of a national lockdown to fight the Covid-19 virus.

"We will go to the extent of making a public announcement that anyone who has come into contact with that specific person must present themselves."

READ MORE | Coronavirus: Patients who refuse to provide personal information to be publicly outed

South Africa has started work on the development of a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has said.

The University of Cape Town, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as well as the Biological and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa are working on this project.

Nzimande was addressing journalists on Tuesday following President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement of a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.

He said a number of existing drugs were currently being re-purposed and tested for efficacy, adding current international trials under the co-ordination of the World Health Organization (WHO) were being monitored.

READ MORE |South Africa starts preliminary work on a coronavirus vaccine

The Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, said South Africans will still be able to access their social grant payments from 30 March and all shelters are to remain functional during the nationwide lockdown, which is set for midnight on Thursday.

Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday, Zulu said retailers and banks were working closely with the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), so that everyone was still able to access their grants.

“Recipients are reminded that older persons and persons with disabilities should be allowed to access their grants on 30 and 31 March, so that they are able to return home as quickly as possible, given the lockdown,” Zulu said.

All other grants would be available from 1 April.

READ MORE | National lockdown: South Africans will still be able to access social grant payments

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 now more than 423 000, while deaths are more than nearly 19 000.

Seven countries, China, Italy, Iran, Spain and Germany,United States and France all have more than 20 000 cases.

Italy has more than 6 800 deaths, more than twice the number of China, where the virus first broke out.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Italy on Tuesday received more reassuring evidence that its coronavirus infection rate was slowing thanks to a painful lockdown that other nations are starting to apply at great economic cost.

Health officials across the ravaged Mediterranean country are studying every new piece of data to see whether two weeks of bans and closures have made a dent in the crisis.

The harshest restrictions are theoretically due to expire on Wednesday evening – although the government is all but certain to extend them in some form for weeks or even months.

READ MORE | Italy's new virus infections 'slowing', as it drops to lowest point in crisis

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to no later than the summer of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, the International Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday.

The Games were scheduled for 24 July to 9 August, but after telephone discussions between IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a historic joint decision was taken to delay the Olympics – the first time that has been done in peacetime.

Abe said Bach was in "100 percent agreement" when Japan asked the IOC to push back the Games.

In a joint statement, the pair said that based on current WHO information, the Tokyo Games "must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community".

READ MORE | Tokyo Olympics postponed over coronavirus pandemic

LATEST RESEARCH

How can such a minuscule packet of genetics cause such chaos around the world? And why can’t we simply eradicate it? Those are the questions on everyone's lips as the new coronavirus outbreak is having serious consequences for everyone around the world.

Viruses are resilient little entities made up of proteins and genetic material that can only replicate within an environment inside another living host (such as a human or animal). Microbiologists debated in the past whether a virus can still be seen as “alive” when it has no host to infect.

Prof Nigel Brown, a microbiology expert from the University of Edinburgh, simply defines a virus as a “gift-wrapped nucleic acid", whether it’s a DNA or RNA or whether it is single or double stranded.

We now know that the Covid-19 virus is a single-stranded RNA virus with a capsid (a little cap over the virus) that connects to its host.

While it’s essentially dead (well, dormant and zombie-like) on its own, the power lies in its ability to encode inside the host and spread through saliva or droplets. We also recently learned that this particular virus can survive for at least three days on hard, non-porous surfaces such as plastic and metal, making it easy to spread, especially when people are slack about hygiene.

READ MORE | Why can’t we simply kill the coronavirus? Because it’s not alive in the first place

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections 

• Maintain social 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