Infectious Diseases

20 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Questions around PPE tenders and Cuba celebrates no local transmissions

Your latest coronavirus news: The DA raises questions around PPE tenders in Eastern Cape and Cuba has had no local Covid-19 transmissions for the first time in four months.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 346 328.

According to the latest update, 5 033 of deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 191 059 recoveries.

So far, 2 471 747 tests have been conducted, with 49 006 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news: 

The DA in the Eastern Cape says it has approached the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to probe "potential impropriety" in the awarding of several tenders to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

The party said it had come to its attention an "ANC-affiliated" company, Kaziforce, was awarded a tender to deliver face masks to the embattled metro.

"Kaziforce delivered four batches of 8 600 face masks at a price of R19.50 per mask, or R167 700 per batch. The company, therefore, delivered 34 400 masks at a total price of R670 800.

"According to the PPE price list provided by National Treasury as at 28 April 2020, Type 1 masks should be bought at no more than R511 per box of 50, or R10.22 per mask, VAT inclusive.

"Therefore, the maximum price charged for 34 400 Type 1 masks should be no more than R351 568. Even more shocking is that these same masks can be bought on Takealot for R300 per box of 50, or R6 per mask," said DA leader in the province Nqaba Bhanga in a statement. 

READ MORE | DA in Eastern Cape writes to SIU to probe alleged PPE tender corruption in NMB 

The ANC Women's League (ANCWL) says Covid-19 has reversed the limited progress women have made in the fight for gender equality and women's rights.

The league was honouring South Africa's founding president, Nelson Mandela, and those who died of Covid-19 with a virtual prayer service on Sunday - just a day after the world marked Mandela Day and as the coronavirus outbreak continued to soar in the country. Figures released on Saturday indicated that there were almost 351 000 positive cases in the country and 4 948 fatalities.

Mandela, a struggle icon who dedicated 67 years of his life to the struggle for freedom, would have turned 102 on Saturday. Every year on his birthday, people are urged to be of service to those around them for at least 67 minutes.

"We have seen that Covid-19 has reversed the limited progress we have made as women in the fight for gender equality and women's rights," said ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini.

She also praised United Nations (UN) secretary general António Guterres' lecture in honour of the former statesman, fondly called by his clan name "Madiba," for being honest about the world's failures in addressing inequality challenges.

Dlamini called on women, along with female leaders, to be at the centre of recovery efforts, vowing not to turn back and to " push back" against having women sidelined.

READ MORE | Covid-19 reversed SA's limited progress towards gender equality - ANCWL 

Teachers' unions have reportedly proposed that matrics return to school on 17 August and that other grades return on a later date, subject to the evolution of the novel coronavirus.

According to a Sunday Times report, the resolution by the country's five unions that schools close amid a peak in Covid-19 infections was included in a document Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga tabled at a meeting with the CEM on Saturday.

While the unions put forward that matrics should return on 17 August, they also proposed the prioritisation of "different modes [of teaching] to assist them while they are at home".

Department of Basic Education (DBE) spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told News24 on Sunday that Motshekga was still locked in a Cabinet meeting following her meeting with the CEM on Saturday. 

Mhlanga said there was no indication when a decision would be announced because meetings were still underway. 

READ MORE | Covid-19: Angie Motshekga meets Cabinet as unions propose matrics return to school on 17 August 


Cases update:

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

Late on Sunday night, positive cases worldwide were 14 355 705, while deaths were 603 285.

The United States had the most cases in the world - 3 739 726, as well as the most deaths - 140 294.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Cuba for the first time in 130 days on Sunday said there were no new domestic cases of Covid-19 as most of the country moved into the final phase of resuming normal activities with masks and social distancing.

Francisco Duran, head of epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, and who has updated the country daily on the pandemic, took off his mask during the national broadcast for only the second time deliver the good news.

Duran, on Saturday did the same, reporting just a single domestic case in Havana.

Only a handful of Covid-19 cases were reported in Cuba over the last week, all in Havana. Most of the Caribbean island, home to 11.2 million inhabitants, has been free of the disease for more than a month.

"I always tell you to stay safe at home, but I know many will go to the beach today," Duran said, smiling, before reminding his television audience about social distancing.  

READ MORE | Cubans celebrate no local transmission of Covid-19 for first time in four months


The reinstatement of the ban on the sale of alcohol may have come as a surprise to many, but evidence suggest that it will in fact have a significant impact on trauma and hospital capacity in the coming weeks. 

In his announcement of the ban last Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa justified the decision by saying “it is vital that we do not burden our clinics and hospitals with alcohol-related injuries that could have been avoided”. On Monday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize set out the evidence for the ban.

His presentation cited a 60-70% reduction in hospital visits and admissions related to trauma during the initial ban in Levels four and five of South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown, followed by a surge after restrictions were eased at the beginning of June. 

Models relied on by government project that there would be around 3 400 less alcohol-related trauma cases in public hospitals by the end of the first week of the ban and double that number by the end of the third week.

Apart from the direct effect on hospital capacity increasing due to a reduction in alcohol-related trauma, it is also thought that people adhere less to transmission prevention methods after drinking alcohol. 

READ MORE | Covid-19: Alcohol ban will increase ICU capacity, but is not a long term solution – experts say 

Doctors have long noted links between severe Covid-19 and heart trouble, but a new study helps quantify the magnitude of the problem.

The study of hundreds of hospitalised patients found that cardiac arrest and heart rhythm disorders are 10 times more common among Covid-19 patients requiring intensive care than among other hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

Just why the risk soars so high in the ICU isn't clear, but it's likely tied to the stresses of advanced illness, not a direct activity of the new coronavirus upon the heart, said study senior author Dr Rajat Deo. He's a cardiac electrophysiologist and associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

"Non-cardiac causes such as systemic infection, inflammation and illness are likely to contribute more to the occurrence of cardiac arrest and arrhythmias than damaged or infected heart cells due to the viral infection," Deo said in a university news release.

A cardiologist unconnected to the new report agreed.

"We know that critically ill patients with Covid-19 have what we call a systemic inflammatory response, which creates a 'cytokine storm'," said Dr Satjit Bhusri, from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "This massive immune response, it appears, is the cause of the increase in heart rhythm disorders, rather than the virus itself."

READ MORE | Severe Covid-19 raises odds for dangerous heart conditions 10-fold

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