Infectious Diseases

18 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Reduced isolation time for Covid patients, and tavern owners ultimatum

Patients who test positive for Covid-19 will now be isolated for a period of 10 days; and tavern owners give President Ramaphosa an ultimatum over the alcohol sales ban.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 337 594.

According to the latest update, 4 804 of deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 178 183 recoveries.

So far, more than 2.3 million tests have been conducted, with over 48 000 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The recommended isolation period for patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 has been revised from 14 to 10 days.

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize announced the revised isolation period during a briefing on Friday evening.

Mkhize said the decision to revise the isolation period was based on evidence that most patients with a mild Covid-19 infection continue to shed the virus from their upper airways for approximately 7-12 days.

"Furthermore, the presence of detectable virus when testing does not necessarily imply infectiousness. It has been proven that, in mild cases, virus cultures are generally only positive for 8-9 days after symptom onset," Mkhize said.

"The duration of infectiousness in patients with severe disease (i.e. requiring admission due to clinical instability) is less well established. In general, patients with severe disease may continue to shed virus at higher levels for longer periods than patients with mild disease."

READ MORE | Recommended isolation time for Covid-19 patients reduced from 14 to 10 days

Legal action has been ordered against a company that supplied sanitisers to Makaula Senior Secondary School - where 204 pupils and staff tested positive for Covid-19 - for "defrauding" the education department.

This is after a report in possession of the Eastern Cape Department of Health revealed that sanitisers used at the 1 000-bed boarding school, and nine other schools in the district, was sub-standard and contained very low volumes of alcohol.

To kill germs, levels of alcohol in a bottle of sanitiser must be at least 70%. The test, conducted by Rhodes University pharmaceutics professor Roderick Walker, has shown that samples of sanitiser supplied to Makaula only contained 57.6% alcohol, Timeslive reported.

Walker had conducted tests on sanitisers supplied to 10 schools in the Alfred Nzo District, with results showing alcohol contents ranged from 4.1% to 57.6%.

The schools included Jolobe Junior Secondary School (4.1%); Nkulisa Primary School (31.9%); Mbodleni Senior Secondary (33.1%); and St George's Senior Secondary (34.2%).

READ MORE | Shoddy sanitisers supplied to school where 200 tested positive for Covid-19

A representative body for tavern owners has given President Cyril Ramphosa a week to respond to its request for relief during the alcohol sales ban, saying it will otherwise resort to its own means to survive the economic impact of Covid-19.  

The National Liquor Traders Council (NLTC), which represents more than 34 000 tavern owners, is one of many alcohol industry groups that has been up in arms about government reinstating its ban on the sale of alcohol this week.

The ban was briefly lifted at the beginning of June.

According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, prohibition on the sale of alcohol was a necessary measure to reduce hospital trauma cases linked to alcohol, as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to climb.

The country's total number of cases stands at 324 221.

The NLTC sent a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday asking for financial relief for tavern owners who are battling to keep their businesses running due to the pandemic.

READ MORE | Tavern owners give Ramaphosa ultimatum over alcohol sales ban

Minibus taxi operators vowed to fill their vehicles to 100% passenger capacity, regardless of lockdown rules that limited passenger numbers in an effort to curb the spread of Sars-CoV-2.

Shortly after that threat President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that, while many other restrictions on daily life would continue, the government had decided to allow minibus taxis to be 100% full – to the horror of some who fear that will put vulnerable workers at risk.

The same rules will apply to "bus, taxi and e-hailing, meter[ed] taxis, shuttle services, chauffeur-driven vehicles and scholar transport vehicles", transport minister Fikile Mbalula said this week.

That means any Uber or Bolt car on a trip shorter than 200 kilometres will be allowed to load up fully, as long as they follow some new rules, most notably forcing passengers to keep windows open at least five centimetres.

That could, in theory, see up to four passengers take to a single standard Uber sedan.

READ MORE | Like minibus taxis, Uber and Bolt will be allowed to load 100% capacity – but they’re not keen yet


Cases update:

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

Late on Friday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 13.9 million, while deaths were more than 590 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - with more than 3.6 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 138 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

The United States' Covid-19 epidemic is once more blowing up at an exponential rate, even as leaders of some of the worst-hit states resist mandatory mask measures to stem the spread.

Health authorities reported 78 000 new cases on Thursday, according to the database run by Johns Hopkins University.

The number of patients hospitalised for the virus is at its highest level since April 23, according to The Covid Tracking Project.

The death rate, which plummeted in May and June, has been rising since last week. Florida, the new epicentre, posted more than 11 000 new cases and 128 deaths Friday.

The epidemic is meanwhile spreading to new parts of the country - Idaho, Tennessee, Mississippi.

President Donald Trump's ratings have plummeted since the start of the pandemic: Only 38 percent of Americans approve of how he has handled the health crisis, against 51% in March, according to a Washington Post poll published Friday.

READ MORE | Masks spark political, legal battles in US as virus marches on

As hair salons are now permitted to trade in South Africa under level 3 lockdown conditions, wearing a mask is one of the vital safety regulations that should be followed. And according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control in the US, a potentially dangerous outbreak was avoided at a hair salon in Missouri – thanks to masks.

In May 2020, 139 clients interacted with two hairstylists in Springfield, Missouri, who both tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Despite the fact that they spent time in close proximity to their clients, none of them ended up with Covid-19.

While the team behind the study is not exactly sure what contributed to the absence of Covid-19 among the clients that came into contact with the two sick stylists, they attribute this to the role of mandatory face coverings. This plays a big role as hairstylists work in close proximity to their clients and exposure lasts for longer than 15 minutes.

The salon had also reduced its capacity to 25% of normal.


Early in the Covid-19 outbreak, researchers turned their attention to existing medicines to try and save people from deadly Covid-19 symptoms.

Lopinavir, an antiviral used for HIV, and hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatism, were both in the run as potential treatments, as there was evidence that they could work against Covid-19.

A research group from the University of Basel has now established why these drugs will not work. The concentration of these two drugs in the lungs of Covid-19 patients ends up not being high enough to fight the virus.

Their research was published online in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy

In February 2020, the research group established a Covid-19 patient cohort at the University Hospital in Basel with the aim of monitoring diagnostic means and the potential use of off-label drugs to help treat the disease, including lopinavir and hydroxychloroquine.

READ MORE | Covid-19: What the science says on some of the treatments that have been tried, but not worked

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