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Infectious Diseases

18 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: No to alcohol sales, what's next for schools, and the countries with no cases

Your latest coronavirus news: Alcohol traders must wait until the end of lockdown to resume trade like most other businesses; a draft curriculum recovery plan includes a scenario where June exams are scrapped to save the school year; and the 16 countries in the world with no Covid-19 cases..

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 2 783.

Gauteng is the first province to breach the 1 000-case mark.

According to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, 50 people have now died.

More than 100 000 tests have been conducted so far.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Alcohol traders will have to wait until the end of the nationwide lockdown to resume trade like most other businesses, the office of the state attorney has said in response to the Gauteng Liquor Forum. 

The state attorney, acting for President Cyril Ramaphosa, emphasised on Friday that the sale of alcohol is "not an essential service" and could derail government's efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus. 

The president said consumption of liquor has proven to increase crimes that land people in hospitals and South Africa could ill afford to have its emergency rooms filled up when it has to deal with Covid-19 cases.

"As we have previously noted, the decision to impose a lockdown on South Africans was not taken lightly and was only taken after full consideration of all relevant factors and expert advice," read the letter sent to the forum on Friday. 

The forum, which represents more than 20 000 taverns and shebeens in Gauteng, wrote to the president on Saturday threatening to take its fight to the Constitutional Court if the president did not lift the ban on alcohol sales during the lockdown.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Alcohol sales will have to wait till end of lockdown, Presidency confirms

The Department of Basic Education's (DBE) draft framework for a curriculum recovery plan - post the Covid-19 lockdown - has revealed scenarios with recommendations which include scrapping the June examinations in order to save the schooling year.

Cancelling the June examinations would allow enough time for teaching and learning once the lockdown in the country is lifted. This is outlined in a lengthy draft document and a summary PowerPoint presentation, which News24 has seen.

The documents show that, while the consequences of the cancellation were not expected to be significant, it would also require the department to engage with relevant stakeholders, including higher education institutions which may require June results from Grade 12 pupils for the processing of applications for admission for 2021.

Another recommendation in the draft is that June examinations and school-based assessments be either postponed or brought forward in order to maintain their integrity. Another option is to modify their format.

READ MORE | Scrap June exams, extend school hours - inside the Education Dept's draft recovery plan

A 69-year-old man, the first person to die of Covid-19 in Limpopo, was a retired lawyer and never travelled outside his village in the Capricorn district in the past several months.

News24 was reliably told that the man had in the past been visited by people from outside the province. His wife, who is 65, has also tested positive for Covid-19, but she is still asymptomatic.

The Department of Health has refused to divulge the name of the village for fear of causing panic in the area and a "media frenzy".

The man was admitted to the privately-run Netcare Pholoso Hospital in Polokwane on 7 April after experiencing diabetic complications. 

READ MORE | Man who was Limpopo's first Covid-19 death 'initially tested negative'

Amid the threat of an "inevitable" exponential rise in Covid-19 cases, government is trying to keep one step ahead of the virus by using data strategies to record hotspots around the country.

During a Data@Breakfast seminar on Friday, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, an internationally-recognised epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist who is working as the chairperson of the government advisory committee on Covid-19, explained that cellphones will be used to track the movements of health workers.

This approach is in preparation for an expected exponential rise in cases once South Africa’s lockdown ends.

The strategy is community based and aims to identify hotspots using the cellphones of community health workers who are going out to actively find Covid-19 cases.

READ MORE | Govt to tackle Covid-19 using data and healthcare workers, says Prof Karim

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 Saturday morning, positive cases worldwide are now more than 2 240 000, while deaths were nearly 154 000.

The United States had nearly 700 000 cases, with close to 37 000 deaths.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Lesotho, Samoa and North Korea. What do these countries have in common with 13 other nations?

Until 17 April, they had no reported cases of the coronavirus, Al Jazeera reports.

The Johns Hopkins University shows on its website that 185 countries have infections, with Yemen having the lowest number of cases - only one.

Sixteen countries have no reported cases of the coronavirus.

READ MORE | Lesotho one of 16 countries with no Covid-19 cases - report

Italian health officials cheered on Friday after the number of people currently being treated for Covid-19 rose by only a few hundred for the first time since the outbreak began.

Figures from the civil protection service showed the number of those receiving hospital care or recovering at home under medical supervision rising by 355 to 106 962 on Friday.

But the figure outside the outbreak's Italian epicentre in Milan's norther region of Lombardy went up by just 11 cases

READ MORE | Italy cheers as virus cases level off

Nestled in the hilly outskirts of the city at the heart of the coronavirus crisis, a Chinese high-security biosafety laboratory is now the subject of US claims it may be the cradle of the pandemic.

Chinese scientists have said the virus likely jumped from an animal to humans in a market that sold wildlife in Wuhan, but the existence of the lab has fuelled conspiracy theories that the germ spread from the facility.

The United States has now brought the allegations into the mainstream, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying officials were doing a "full investigation" into how the virus "got out into the world".

Here are some key questions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

READ MORE | The Wuhan lab at the core of a virus controversy

LATEST RESEARCH

Months into the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a list of 70 vaccine candidates, with three of those already in the first phases of clinical evaluation.

In one of these efforts, France’s Pasteur Institute is working on making use of a modified measles vaccine to trick the body into producing antibodies against the new coronavirus, according to a report.

The Pasteur Institute is renowned for their fight against infectious diseases, having come up with remedies against a number of diseases, including typhoid fever, tuberculosis, yellow fever and HIV.

According to virologist Frédéric Tangy, nearly all 133 research departments of the institute are actively involved in Covid-19 related research.

READ MORE | Could a measles vaccine help in the fight against Covid-19?

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