Infectious Diseases

24 May 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Reopening of schools 'irrational', top scientist backed, and rules for SANDF

Your latest coronavirus news: The approach taken by the government in planning the reopening of schools is "irrational and arbitrary", according to the National Association of Parents in School Governance; about 50 members of the scientific community have come out in support of Professor Glenda Gray; and a new code of conduct issued by the South African National Defence Force, for soldiers.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 21 343.

According to the latest update, 407 deaths have been recorded in the country.

So far, more than 564 000 tests have been conducted, with more than 21 300 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The one-size-fits-all approach taken by the government in planning the reopening of schools is "irrational and arbitrary" and puts into danger the lives of pupils, teachers and families, according to the National Association of Parents in School Governance, also acting on behalf of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas).

The association has intervened in the DA's court application to oppose the lockdown regulations.

It said the application should not only be dismissed, but there should also be no further easing of the lockdown and no reopening of schools without protective measures.

In an affidavit by Mahlomola Kekana, the association's president, he said Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's plan to reopen schools was not only vague, but would put pupils and teachers in danger of succumbing to Covid-19.

READ MORE | Parents, Cosas join forces to stop govt's 'irrational' reopening of schools

About 50 members of the scientific community have come out in support of Professor Glenda Gray following a request by the health department to launch an investigation into her.

Gray is the president of the Medical Research Council (MRC) and a renowned HIV vaccine researcher.

The department's deputy director-general, Dr Anban Pillay, called for an investigation into Gray following comments she made in an interview with News24.

According to GroundUp, Pillay said Gray's comments eroded public support for behaviour change, adding he had also received calls regarding her conduct as MRC president.

READ MORE | Academic community comes out in support of Prof Gray following health department threats

There will be no carrying of groceries bags, taking photos or reacting to insults from the public for soldiers deployed to enforce national lockdown regulations, based on a new code of conduct issued by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

The code of conduct, published on Thursday, details how SANDF members are expected to behave in various scenarios during Operation Notlela, including during incidents of looting, drinking on private property, at roadblocks and other interactions with the public.

The mission-specific code of conduct comes after the suspension and investigation of soldiers present during the death of Collins Khosa, 40, who was allegedly beaten to death by members of the SANDF in Alexandra, Johannesburg, in March.

Lawyers on behalf of the family argued the ministers of police and defence had failed to take steps to prevent illegal action by law enforcement officials, adding their public statement had defended, downplayed and encouraged the use of force.

READ MORE | 'Don't shoot people, don't carry grocery bags' - SANDF updates rules for soldiers enforcing lockdown

The National Prosecuting Authority has declined to prosecute about 25% of lockdown offences.

Acting Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock told the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Friday that 25% of the dockets of lockdown offences were not enrolled.

He said this means prosecutors are fair in their evaluation of the cases.

"They are dealing with these matters subject to the Constitution and the law and that will be our approach," he said.

READ MORE | 'You don't want to criminalise the country' - NPA says it doesn't prosecute 25% of lockdown cases


Cases update:

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

Late on Saturday night, positive cases worldwide were 5.28 million, while deaths were more than 340 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - closing in on 1.62 million, as well as the most deaths - almost 97 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's most senior political adviser is under growing pressure to resign after it was reported that he broke coronavirus lockdown rules and was subsequently investigated by police.

Dominic Cummings drove 410km from London to his hometown, Durham, in late March to visit his parents, according to a joint report by The Guardian and Daily Mirror newspapers, published Friday night.

At the time, Cummings and his wife were displaying symptoms of the coronavirus, the reports said.

Days before, Prime Minister Johnson had tested positive for the virus, and he was self-isolating in Number 10 Downing Street.

When Cummings made the trip, official government advice was that no one should make any non-essential journeys and only leave home to buy groceries, exercise, and provide supplies to those vulnerable to the virus-like the elderly or disabled.

READ MORE | UK prime minister's top adviser under fire after driving 400km to family during lockdown


There have been high hopes that the antiviral drug remdesivir might be an answer to the pandemic of Covid-19. But a major, new study finds the drug on its own won't be enough to significantly curb cases and deaths.

The study, published May 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that, "given high mortality [of patients] despite the use of remdesivir, it is clear that treatment with an antiviral drug alone is not likely to be sufficient."

The study of 1 063 Covid-19 patients was led by Dr John Beigel and Dr Clifford Lane at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The researchers found that remdesivir, delivered by infusion, did help ease the illness: Patients who got the antiviral recovered after an average of 11 days versus 15 days for those who hadn't received it.

Patients who were so sick they required supplemental oxygen, but did not need a ventilator to breathe, appeared to benefit most from remdesivir.

But the difference in the overall death rate - 7.1% of patients on the drug vs. 11.9% of those who didn't get it - did not reach statistical significance, the researchers said.

READ MORE | Remdesivir will not be enough to curb Covid-19, study finds

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