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Infectious Diseases

25 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Revised national budget, SA cases surge past 4 000, and Trump under fire

Your latest coronavirus news: The finance minister will table a revised budget to Parliament; cases in SA surge past 4 000 after 267 new cases were reported; and experts dismiss as reckless and irresponsible US President Trump's suggestion of injecting disinfectant for Covid-19.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 4 220.

According to the latest update, 79 deaths have been recorded in the country.

So far, 152 390 tests have been conducted, with more than 8 800 new tests conducted.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni said on Friday that he would table a revised budget to Parliament which would accommodate government's R800 billion response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"I will be shortly tabling a revised budget bill before Parliament to deal with all of these measures," Mboweni said at a press briefing. He did not specify a date. 

Earlier in the week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the R500 billion coronavirus relief package, which included stimulus funds, allocations for salary cover and tax incentives for businesses affected by Covid-19 and the lockdown.

Mboweni said the relief package, combined with monetary policy measures from the South African Reserve Bank such as the 200 basis point cut in interest rates in less than a month, could unlock as much as R800 billion into the economy.

Without detailing the strategy in depth, Mboweni said the national budget that he tabled in February would undergo budget reallocation and reprioritisation to ensure that funds are redirected from non-essential state functions to the government's interventions to the coronavirus.

READ MORE | Mboweni to table adjusted budget outlining coronavirus relief package

President Cyril Ramaphosa has heaped praise on Gauteng for its state-of-readiness in the midst of the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

Ramaphosa joined Premier David Makhura and Health MEC Bandile Masuku for a tour of three of the province's facilities on Friday, which included a field hospital set up at the Nasrec expo centre, a food bank and Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.

He praised the provincial government and healthcare workers leading its response to the deadly pandemic, saying they have shown great dedication, commitment and sacrifice.

"The question of financial resources becomes easy when a province demonstrates innovation and is being far-sighted, [showing] foresight and in many ways really working hard to make sure it safeguards the life as well as the health of the people of this province."

He said the hospital, which currently has 19 intensive care units, would be ramped up by 100.

"That is phenomenal, and in many ways this hospital, through the Covid crisis, [is] being transformed to be ready for NHI [National Health Insurance], and we are putting the building blocks in place," he added, referring to the country's vision of universal health care.

READ MORE | Covid-19 crisis is helping SA hospitals get ready for NHI - Ramaphosa

More than 220 000 South African workers may be due a total not far from R1 billion, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) said on Friday – but it doesn't have the necessary information to send them their cash.

The UIF has been rapidly paying out Covid-19 benefits under the Temporary Employer / Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), but not everything has been going smoothly.

Those employees, 220 768 of them to be precise, were either not found in the UIF system or their employers did not provide enough information for their payments to be processed, the UIF said.

On average, if eligible, each would receive around R4 200.

Employers have been sent notifications in cases where details were lacking, the UIF said.

READ MORE | More than 220 000 South Africans may be missing out on nearly R1 billion in cash, the UIF says

President Cyril Ramaphosa says he has called on the Auditor-General to put in place systems that will prevent the potential looting of billions committed to the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

He made the comments to journalists on Friday, days after announcing a R500 billion Covid-19 relief fund, of which R20 billion will be given to municipalities.

"I do not want to hear of a commission request after this. I do not want to hear of a Covid commission, therefore we want to take proactive steps," said Ramaphosa.

The president spent most of Friday touring some of Gauteng's facilities, which have been prepared in response to the deadly global outbreak.

READ MORE | Ramaphosa vows Covid-19 budget will not fall prey to looting

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 Friday night, positive cases worldwide were close to 2.8 million, while deaths were close to 196 000.

The United States has the most cases in the world - almost 890 000, as well as the most deaths - nearly 51 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Experts on Friday dismissed as reckless and irresponsible US President Donald Trump's suggestion of injecting disinfectant to treat patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside [the body]?" Trump asked at his daily briefing on Thursday, having said that disinfectant knocks out the virus "in a minute".

"Because, you see, it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs," Trump continued, apparently referring to disinfectant. "So it would be interesting to check that out."

In interviews and on social networks, doctors and others dismissed Trump's idea out-of-hand.

"This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible, and it's dangerous," Vin Gupta, pulmonologist and global health expert told NBC News.

"It's a common method that people utilise when they want to kill themselves."

"We have already seen people mistakenly poisoning themselves by taking chloroquine when their hopes were raised by unscientific comments," noted Parastou Donyai, director of pharmacy practice and the University of Reading, referring to a malaria drug Trump has promoted as a treatment for Covid-19.

READ MORE | 'Irresponsible, dangerous' - experts trash Trump idea of injecting disinfectant to treat coronavirus

The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 50 000 on Friday, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

According to the tracker, 50 031 people have now died in the United States from Covid-19 since the start of the global health crisis, with more than 870 000 confirmed cases.

The United States is the hardest hit of any country in the world as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. In the 24 hours to 00:30 GMT Friday, 3 176 people died of Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins - one of the deadliest days recorded anywhere since the start of the pandemic.

Despite the alarming figures, several US states such as Georgia and Texas were preparing to reopen some businesses as they started lifting lockdown measures.

READ MORE | US records one of the deadliest days yet as coronavirus toll exceeds 50 000 - Johns Hopkins

LATEST RESEARCH

While most of us are doing the best we can to stay as far away from the new coronavirus as possible, some people are willing to be infected intentionally.

As scientists are racing towards the development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus, a grassroots effort has attracted nearly more than 2 300 volunteers – should they be needed for such a trial.

This controversial approach is also known as a human-challenge trial.

The programme is called 1 Day Sooner and not affiliated with any groups or companies currently developing and funding coronavirus vaccines.

READ MORE | People are volunteering to be infected with the coronavirus, in a controversial vaccine approach

While most people are anxious about the coronavirus, people with underlying conditions such as diabetes may be especially so.

Earlier, more extensive research from China published in JAMA showed a 2% fatality rate among Covid-19 patients. But this rate jumped to about 10% for those who also had cardiovascular disease and to about 7% among those with diabetes. A report from Italy found among 481 patients who died of the virus, about one-third had diabetes.

That represents a risk of death five times higher than would be expected based on diabetes' overall prevalence in Italy, said Dr Robert Eckel, an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

While there's much to learn about Covid-19, its course in people with diabetes appears to loosely parallel that of influenza. Outcomes are less stable, ventilators are more commonly needed, and severe complications are more likely in people with diabetes who get the flu, said Eckel, current president of medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association.

The reasons are complicated. In people with type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance gives rise to chronic, low-grade inflammation, leaving the immune system dulled by this ongoing state of alert. New infections are like "crying wolf" – the immune system does not rally quickly and adequately, therefore allowing the virus to gain and maintain a foothold.

READ MORE | Understanding the risky combination of diabetes and the coronavirus

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