Infectious Diseases

28 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Nurse tells of Covid-19 'war', latest on UIF, and update on regulations

A Groote Schuur Hospital nurse describes Covid-19 as "a war"; UIF’s great struggle; and Level 3: you can visit friends and family at casinos, restaurants - but not at home.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 131 800.

According to the latest update, 2 413 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 67 094 recoveries.

So far, more than 1.52 million tests have been conducted, with 35 905 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

The court also provided legal clarity on the standing of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) when it dismissed an application to have the NCCC declared unconstitutional, and also dismissed the application to have the lockdown regulations declared invalid.

Last month, Mpiyakhe Dlamini, Duwayne Esau, Tami Jackson, Lindo Khuzwayo, Mikhail Manuel, Neo Mkwane, Scott Roberts and Riaan Salie brought the application.

Dlamini-Zuma, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel, the NCCC, and the Disaster Management Centre were the respondents.

"I am not persuaded that [the] applicants are entitled to any of the relief they seek," Judge Rosheni Allie wrote in her judgment, handed down on Friday.

Judge Elizabeth Baartman agreed with the ruling.

When arguments were heard in the case, the respondents challenged the rationality of the government's regulations for the Level 4 lockdown due to the short time allowed for public participation.

READ MORE | It's misleading to call Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma authoritarian, court rules

With the new Level 3 lockdown regulations gazetted, you will soon be able to visit friends and family at restaurants, cinemas and casinos, but you are not legally allowed to visit them at home.

During President Cyril Ramaphosa's address on 17 June, he announced that Cabinet had decided to ease restrictions on a few more economic activities.

These economic activities include restaurants for sit-down meals, cinemas, conference facilities, theatres, casinos and personal care services, like hairdressers and beauty parlours.

"In each instance, specific and stringent safety requirements have been agreed on and will need to be put in place before a business can reopen, and protocols will need to be strictly adhered to for businesses to remain open," Ramaphosa said.

READ MORE | Level 3: You can visit friends and family at casinos, restaurants - but not at home

Groote Schuur Hospital nursing assistant Judith Parenzee describes Covid-19 as "a war".

She has been rushed off her feet since the pandemic hit South Africa, and then took its greatest toll on the Western Cape.

She has already lost colleagues to the virus, but still keeps going.

"When we first heard about this thing, Covid-19, we didn't know what to think," said Parenzee.

READ MORE | 'It's a war' - Groote Schuur nurse on Covid-19 frontline

Nobody doubted Minister of Labour and Employment, Thulas Nxesi, when he told Parliament in May that the Unemployment Insurance Fund would come under serious strain as the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown restrictions continued in South Africa.

With unemployment above 30% and expected to increase as the economy struggles with a lack of demand that has seen inflation fall to 2005 levels, the stress on the fund is only set to increase.

However, the employees that have been laid off are not the only people that the UIF must take care of during this pandemic. When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced government's stimulus package to support SA through the lockdown in April, he said the fund would also cover for salaries of those employees that could not work during much of the lockdown phase of the economy.

However, employers have encountered challenges accessing the Covid-19 temporary employer-employee relief scheme (TERS) funds, while others are being investigated for attempting to defraud the UIF. Meanwhile, the line of people needing assistance from UIF only gets longer.

Nxesi warned that unemployment benefits were limited, and that a long-term issue the state must deal with is employment insecurity. Nxesi said he expected that the state could end up playing a central role in supporting South Africans through these economic difficulties going forward.

READ MORE | UIF’s great struggle: Billions in provision, but SA still needs more

President Cyril Ramaphosa's performance in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has mostly been a success, according to News24 readers. Most News24 readers also approve of government's handling of the pandemic, although their approval ratings for some Cabinet ministers are markedly lower.

This is according to a News24/Ipsos poll of 52 287 News24 readers, undertaken from 25 May to 4 June 2020.

News24 and Ipsos conducted the survey in an attempt to understand the impact of the pandemic on readers' lives, but also sought readers' views on a number of issues related to Covid-19.

The findings of the poll were weighted and projected to account for demographics and internet connectivity.

READ MORE | Covid-19: News24 readers approve of government, president’s handling of pandemic - new poll


Cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Late on Saturday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 9.88 million, while deaths were close to 496 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 2.5 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 125 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

New coronavirus infections in the US shot to an all-time high of 40,000 in a single day this week, leading many critics to say governors were re-opening their states too early.

But in an interview with Business Insider, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that the surge shouldn't be attributed to a single reason. He said that while official decisions to reopen are contributing to the surge in some places, individuals' decisions to stop social distancing or to not wear masks are playing a big role, too.

"In some places it may be because they did in fact reopen too early," he said. "In other cases it may be that they reopened right on time and that the governmental institutions and public health institutions did everything right, but that the citizens did not have the will or desire or the follow through to do the social distancing that we have recommended, and to wear coverings as we have recommended."

As the nation's top doctor, Adams is responsible for getting the word out about how people can improve their health. He also oversees 6,000 public health service members that work throughout the government.

READ MORE | As US coronavirus cases surge to a record, top doctor says some places likely opened up too early


Doctors in Europe will soon be using Gilead’s antiviral drug, remdesivir, as a targeted treatment for Covid-19 after European authorities’ endorsement put the drug on track to become the first therapy for Covid-19 on the continent, Reuters reported on 25 June 2020.

Remdesivir came under the spotlight when it was investigated as a potential Covid-19 treatment in the World Health Organization’s Solidarity trial in March 2020.

As there are as yet no specific treatments designed especially for Covid-19, medical experts started to investigate the use of existing medication, including remdesivir, that was originally developed as an antiviral against Ebola.

In January, with the emergence of Covid-19, Gilead’s team of virologists identified the need for a Covid-19 treatment and quickly generated pre-clinical data to establish the effect of remdesivir’s effect on Covid-19.

READ MORE | Remdesivir backed to be first treatment for Covid-19 in Europe

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