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Infectious Diseases

Updated 13 May 2020

Coronavirus morning update: President urged to give regular updates, and what's in demand in SA shops

Your latest coronavirus news: The DA leader says the president should be making a weekly address, and also have a question-and-answer sessions with the media; and lockdown has led to some interesting retail trends - with several other products that are currently in hot demand across supermarkets.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 11 350.

According to the latest update, no new deaths were reported. So far a total of 206 deaths have been recorded.

Just short of 370 000 tests have been conducted, with more than 13 600 new tests.

Of note is that the Eastern Cape has now overtaken KwaZulu-Natal with the third highest cases in the country - with 1 504.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

DA leader John Steenhuisen has questioned why President Cyril Ramaphosa has not addressed the nation about government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic in nearly three weeks.

The interim opposition party leader has called for transparency from the president, saying the first step would be weekly national addresses, as well as question-and-answer sessions with the media.

"Since his announcement of a move to Level 4 of the lockdown, he has been missing in action and has left it to a handful of ministers to communicate the questionable decisions of the National [Coronavirus] Command Council.

"We call on the President to address the nation regularly – at least once a week – and that these briefings should include the opportunity to answer questions from the media. We also call on him to make public all Covid-19 data, along with the NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] modelling he is using to justify the continued lockdown," he said.

READ MORE | Come out and address us, Mr President - John Steenhuisen

Schools' state of readiness to reopen during the Level 4 lockdown hangs in the balance yet again as teacher unions continue to raise what they call "gaps" in an updated report received from the Department of Basic Education.

On Monday, the department held a series of meetings with various stakeholders in the sector to consider schools' state of readiness.

After Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's announcement two weeks ago, principals and school management teams (SMTs) across the country were scheduled to resume duties on 11 May and teachers on 18 May to prepare for the return of pupils on the proposed date of 1 June. 

This, however, did not happen because some provinces, such as the Eastern Cape, were still not ready to start the process, while Gauteng and the Western Cape reportedly indicated that they were.

READ MORE | 'We can't have every province doing its own thing' - teacher unions on school reopening

South Africa’s lockdown has led to some interesting retail trends - like a spike in the sale of non-alcoholic beverages, and pineapples - but there have been several other products that are currently in hot demand across supermarkets.

Shoprite and Checkers supermarkets saw a “major spike” in the sale of bleach and other household cleaning products - which the group attributes to an increased interest in hygiene, and additionally more time to do some home spring cleaning.

“Products such as Albex, Jik, Domestos and Handy Andy selling exceptionally well,” a spokesperson for the company says.

This is a trend mirrored in Pick n Pay’s analysis of shopping trends in the build up to the lockdown. According to the group’s annual results presentation, released on Tuesday, bleach was one of the most commonly stockpiled items - the sales of which grew by 138%.

READ MORE | These are the hottest products in demand in SA stores - including hair dye and bleach

Members of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services is concerned about the backlog the Covid-19 pandemic will cause in South Africa's high courts.

The Office of the Chief Justice met with the committee on Tuesday.

Several MPs enquired how the pandemic would affect the administering of justice, particularly if it created backlogs in cases before the high courts, which is administered by the Office of the Chief Justice.

"How are they ensuring access to justice for the public?" DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach asked.

READ MORE | MPs concerned Covid-19 will cause backlog in courts

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 Tuesday night, positive cases worldwide were edging closer to 4.24 million, while deaths were more than 290 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - almost 1.36 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 82 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

The city of Wuhan on Monday ordered all its 11 million residents to be tested for the coronavirus on Monday after discovering six new cases over the weekend.

Five people from the Sanmin residential compound in the city's East West Lake district tested positive on Sunday. They were all linked to an 89-year-old man who tested positive on Saturday.

The six new cases ended a 35-day run of zero new infections in the city. Before this, the last time Wuhan reported a new case was on April 3.

Wuhan also ended its 76-day lockdown on April 8. Since then, the flow of people into the major city has restarted, with public transport, restaurants, and parks operating as normal.

On Monday, the epidemic prevention and control headquarters of Wuhan issued an emergency notice requiring district authorities to submit plans for mass testing on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times.

READ MORE | Wuhan orders all its 11 million residents be tested for the coronavirus after 6 new cases found

A 113-year-old woman, believed to be the oldest person living in Spain, has beat the coronavirus at retirement home where several other residents died from the pandemic, the residence said on Tuesday.

Maria Branyas, who was born in the US, was infected with the virus in April at the Santa Maria del Tura care home in the eastern city of Olot where she has lived for the past 20 years and fought the infection in isolation in her room.

"She survived the disease and is doing fine," a spokesperson for the residence told AFP, adding Branyas had only displayed mild symptoms of the disease.

"She feels good now, she took a test last week and the result was negative," the spokesperson said without giving further details.

Branyas, a mother of three, was isolated in her room for weeks, with only a single employee decked in protective gear allowed in to check on her, according to Catalan regional television TV3 which broadcast images of the centenarian.

READ MORE | 113-year-old Spanish woman survives coronavirus

LATEST RESEARCH

A large study involving several thousands of patients may reveal why men seem more vulnerable to Covid-19 than women.

The study was published in the European Heart Journal on 10 May 2020 and was featured in a news release. It essentially revealed that men have higher concentrations of an enzyme called ACE2 in their blood.

In a previous Health24 article, we explained why SARS-Cov-2 is so contagious. It boils down to the proteins in the spikes of the virus that gives it its name – coronavirus – which is derived from the Latin “corona”, meaning crown.

These proteins in the spikes successfully bind to a receptor on human cells, called the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Once the virus binds to cells, it starts to multiply inside the host, which ultimately makes us sick.

And because men have a higher concentration of this enzyme, it is no surprise that they are far more likely to bear the brunt of Covid-19 than women.

READ MORE | Why are men more susceptible to Covid-19? An enzyme could be to blame

A new study from the Keck School of Medicine of USX suggests that temporarily suppressing the body’s immune system early on during Covid-19 might help a patient avoid the worst outcome.

According to their research that was published in the Journal of Medical Virology, the body’s two main lines of defence, the innate and adaptive immune responses cause the immune system to go into overdrive in some patients, which may lead to fatal consequences.

What is the difference between innate and adaptive immune response?

When the body gets threatened by an infection, there are two lines of defence. The first line of defence, the innate immune response, kicks in right after the body gets infected by pathogens like viruses or bacteria.

The innate immune response targets the specific pathogen and tries to kill it and any cells damaged by it.

The second line of defence, the adaptive immune response, only kicks in days later if there are still any signs of the virus in the body. This response uses mechanisms such as T and B cells to help fight the virus.

Your immune system responds differently to various viruses and bacteria. In the case of flu, the infection moves swiftly and the immune system kills almost all of the targeted cells within days.

But, in the case of Covid-19, the disease progresses much more slowly. When the immune system realises there is imminent danger, the second line of defence, the adaptive reaction, may kick in long before the sick cells are killed, interfering with the innate immune response’s ability to properly attack the intruder.

READ MORE | Can suppressing the immune system early in Covid-19 prevent severe symptoms?

As the race for a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is on and clinical trials are being sped up, scientists are also spending time to find out if existing medicines could be the next best treatment for Covid-19.

An international team of scientists argues that repurposing an existing medicine is likely to offer a quicker solution than vaccine development. Their research backing their argument was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, and explained in a press release from Cambridge University.

A team of researchers representing the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology stated that there will be no magical cure to treat the disease. According to the researchers, a multi-pronged approach is needed to find new, effective medicines, as a vaccine may take over a year to develop.

As scientists unpack the effect of SARS-CoV-2 on the body, we now know that some of the severe symptoms we see in other people are the result of the immune system fighting back, causing damage to tissue and vital organs.

Once the virus enters our bodies, if we have no immunity, it breaks into our cells and replicates throughout the body.

The researchers believe that there are certain areas a successful drug should cover. Professor Anthony Davenport from the University of Cambridge, one of the authors, explains: "Any drug to treat Covid-19 will need to focus on the three key stages of infection: preventing the virus entering our cells in the first place, stopping it replicating if it gets inside the cells, and reducing the damage that occurs to our tissues, in this case, the lungs and heart.”

READ MORE | Covid-19: A repurposed drug might offer quicker results than a vaccine

As US health officials start to learn how the new coronavirus affects children, a new study details the cases of 48 young patients who wound up in the intensive care units at 14 different hospitals after they were infected with Covid-19.

What common threads did the researchers find? An overwhelming majority – 83% – of these young patients suffered from an underlying health condition. Nearly 40% of those children needed a ventilator, and two died.

No child in the study had the new coronavirus-linked inflammatory syndrome that can cause life-threatening heart problems in children. Instead, the 48 patients showed the severe respiratory distress that has hit so many American adults so hard.

"The idea that Covid-19 is sparing of young people is just false," said study co-author Lawrence Kleinman. He is chief of the department of paediatrics' division of population health, quality and implementation science at Rutgers University, in New Jersey.

"While children are more likely to get very sick if they have other chronic conditions, including obesity, it is important to note that children without chronic illness are also at risk. Parents need to continue to take the virus seriously," Kleinman said in a Rutgers news release.

The findings appear to confirm two things: Only a tiny fraction of children will be hit hard by Covid-19, but when it happens the prognosis is very grim.

READ MORE | Covid-19 is still rare in kids, but far from harmless – study

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