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Infectious Diseases

17 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: New lockdown rules as deaths in SA now 48 - but more than 900 recoveries

Your latest coronavirus news: Amendments to lockdown rules; virus-related deaths in the country now at 48; but latest numbers show that there have been more than 900 recoveries.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 2 605.

There have been 48 deaths recorded so far.

According to latest data from the department of health, there have been 903 recoveries.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says some of the measures the government has put in place during the lockdown will remain once it is lifted.

The minister was speaking during a media briefing by members of the national command council (NCC) in Pretoria on Thursday.

The NCC is spearheading South Africa's battle against the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has already claimed the lives of 34 people in the country, while 2 506 have tested positive.

"When we do stop the lockdown, we cannot do it abruptly - that today it's complete lockdown and tomorrow it's open completely. We have to phase in, so that there is an orderly move towards normality," said Dlamini-Zuma.

South Africa has been under lockdown since 26 March.

The lockdown regulations include a travel ban, schools shutting down, and large gatherings and the sale of alcohol prohibited, among others.

"Probably every week we are going to be announcing which areas are going to be opened, incrementally, and the conditions of those openings," said Dlamini-Zuma.

READ MORE | Lockdown will be phased out gradually – Dlamini-Zuma

The second phase of South Africa's national Covid-19 lockdown will be under rules only slightly altered from the initial hard lockdown, the government announced on Thursday.

Ministers presented their plans for the new phase, before the publication of updated regulations that will take on the force of law, complete with criminal sanction.

There would be "a few amendments", co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said, but mostly existing regulations will be extended.

Coming weeks may see further relaxations, she said, refusing to speak about specifics beyond "schools might be opening" and "industries may have to come slowly on stream", as part of an "orderly way of easing the lockdown".

"Expect almost every week new conditions will be coming."

READ MORE | Lockdown Phase 2: Here’s what we know about rules and how restrictions will change

Separated or divorced parents, who have shared custody of their child or children, will now have visitation rights if they have a court order or birth certificate, the amended regulations of the nationwide lockdown state.

The regulations were released on Thursday by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The lockdown, which was initially supposed to end on 16 April, continues to the end of the month after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an extension.

The regulations state parents sharing responsibilities can share their children provided there is a court order allowing them to do so or where there is an agreement or parenting plan that is registered with a family advocate.

Parents can also use certified copies of birth certificates as proof of a legitimate relationship between themselves. 

READ MORE | New regulations restore visitation rights for parents with shared custody

Under new rules announced on Thursday South Africans will be able to call out for emergency repair workers such as electricians and plumbers, for the remainder of the extended lockdown period.

The amended regulations govern the 14-day extended lockdown period announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

This lockdown period will end on April 30. Government has said the economy will then be "incrementally" opened up, meaning that some trades and services would remain prohibited for longer than others.  

The list of emergency repair providers includes plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, glaziers and roof repairers.

READ MORE | New lockdown rules: You can now call a plumber, electrician or someone to fix your roof

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 Thursday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 2.1 million, while deaths were more than 142 000.

The United States has the most cases, with more than 650 000.

Five other countries, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, have more than 100 000 cases each.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

A 99-year-old British World War II veteran on Thursday completed 100 laps of his garden in a fundraising challenge for healthcare staff that has "captured the heart of the nation", raising more than £13 million13 million ($16.2 million, 14.9 million euros).

"Incredible and now words fail me," said Tom Moore, a captain who served in India, after finishing the laps of his 25-metre (82-foot) garden with the help of his walking frame.

Moore initially set himself the goal of raising 1000 for a National Health Service charity in time for his 100th birthday at the end of the month, after receiving treatment for cancer and a broken hip.

But his efforts - a rare bit of good news during the global coronavirus pandemic that has killed almost 13 000 people in Britain alone - have made him a star in his own country and abroad, with the government suggesting honours may be in order.

READ MORE | WWII veteran, 99, raises £13m for UK health workers by doing 100 laps in his garden

While countries across the world enact social distancing measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, some countries across Africa are dealing with food shortages impacting their neediest populations, as farmers and aid workers are unable to travel to provide the food, the Associated Press reported.

"Most Africans work in the informal sector and need to go out every day. I think above all of access to food," World Health Organisation Africa regional chief Matshidiso Moeti told the AP.

According to the AP, lockdowns in 33 countries on the continent prevented farmers from getting their produce to markets and hindered food delivery to rural areas. About 20 % of the continent's population was already food insecure before the pandemic.

"With lockdowns, border closures and the ability to access food curtailed, the impact of Covid-19 on Africa could be like nothing we have seen before," Sean Granville-Ross, director for Africa at the aid agency Mercy Corps told the AP.

READ MORE | 3 tons of food were burned in Zimbabwe by police trying to enforce social distancing

LATEST RESEARCH

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a blueprint document that listed 70 vaccine candidates that were leading the way towards a solution to the coronavirus pandemic.

While 67 of those vaccines are still in a pre-clinical phase, three of the vaccines are taking the lead and have now been moved on to clinical trials.

The three developers are:

- A collaboration between CanSino Biologics Incorporated and the Beijing Institute of Technology

- Inovio Pharmaceuticals

- A team effort by Moderna Therapeutics and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

READ MORE | These are the 3 coronavirus vaccines furthest along in development – already in clinical trials

Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine which are primarily used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases. US President Donald Trump, for example, has been pushing for its use and recently called it a ‘game-changer’ in the fight against Covid-19.

We spoke to Associate Professor Sean Wasserman, Infectious Diseases Specialist at Groote Schuur Hospital, University of Cape Town and Professor Wolfgang Preiser, Head of the Division of Medical Virology at the University of Stellenbosch on what the evidence suggests.

Misleading claims that there is good evidence to suggest that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can treat Covid-19 have been doing the rounds for some time. But evidence suggests otherwise.

Hydroxychloroquine, which is closely related to chloroquine, was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1955 as a treatment for malaria, and has also been widely used for long-term use in autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. There’s plenty of safety data and experience on its use for these indications, explains Professor Wasserman.

READ MORE | Coronavirus | The chloroquine debate: Two experts weigh in

A team of Harvard scientists, who modelled the trajectory of the current coronavirus, came to the conclusion that a once-off lockdown, which many countries around the world are currently experiencing, will not completely eradicate the new coronavirus.

Instead, this team suggested in a study that Covid-19 will become seasonal, and that may require intermittent measures of physical distancing to curtail the spread and take the load off health systems.

The study consists of a computer simulation depicting the possible Covid-19 trajectory, which was published in the journal Science.

Seasonal coronaviruses are not new – a couple of strains are known to cause mild cold symptoms

READ MORE | Physical distancing might need to be practised intermittently until 2022 - study

Around the turn of the century, developing countries, led by African countries, dramatically fought for and won safeguards to promote access to medicines in international trade law. These safeguards are now being heralded by lawmakers around the world as critical legal mechanisms that nations can and must use in the fight against Covid-19.

Maybe the most important of these safeguards is the right to grant compulsory licenses when the public interest requires it. In short, compulsory licenses allow generic companies to manufacture and sell medicines even if the medicine in question is still under patent. It is called “compulsory”, since the license is granted whether or not the patent-holder agrees to it. The patent-holder is paid royalties as compensation.

International trade law determines the standards of patent protection that World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries are required to provide. The WTO was established in 1995 to govern international trade and settle disputes between countries. In the same year, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (commonly known as TRIPS) came into force. South Africa has been a member of the WTO since 1995.

The TRIPS agreement obliges WTO member countries to provide 20 years of monopoly protection on patent claims meeting countries’ patentability criteria (these can differ widely between countries).

READ MORE | Covid-19: Patent victories from HIV fight are now more relevant than ever

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