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Infectious Diseases

22 March 2020

Coronavirus morning update: SA cases keep rising with a first in the Eastern Cape

Your latest coronavirus news: SA cases now at 240; warning to stop spreading fake news; and almost a billion people worldwide confined to their homes.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of positive cases in the country is 240, after 38 new cases were confirmed.

The Eastern Cape was the latest province to have its first positive case after Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State.

The province with the most cases is Gauteng with 125.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko, has cautioned South Africans against spreading fake news about the coronavirus outbreak.

Diko posted a series of tweets on Saturday setting the record straight regarding the virus outbreak in the country.

"Stop spreading fake news: The President is NOT addressing the nation and announcing a lockdown tonight," Diko tweeted.

It is illegal for anyone to intentionally spread fake news about Covid-19, those infected with the virus or government efforts to address the virus, News24 reported.

READ MORE | Talk of a lockdown in SA due to Covid-19 outbreak is not true – Presidency

Requests for Covid-19 testing has left South African pathology labs under extreme pressure to meet the demand due to an inconsistent supply of materials required to do the tests.

In a letter by the National Pathology Group dated 20 March, the association noted the predicament of laboratories after the outbreak of the virus.

"Requests for Covid-19 testing are placing extreme pressures on our member laboratories' resources," the letter read.

"Worldwide demand has created bottlenecks in the supply of N95 and surgical masks, nasopharyngeal swabs, gloves and Covid-19 testing kits."

READ MORE | Coronavirus: Laboratories struggling to meet the demand for tests

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has brought forward the payment of social grants for the elderly and persons with disabilities for the month of April in an effort to lower the risk of Covid-19 infection by reducing congestion at retailers and banks.

In a statement, Sassa said it had been inundated with concerns about grant payments for April in light of the Covid-19 infections in the country.

The number of Covid-19 virus infections in South Africa was at 240 on Saturday afternoon. The virus is reportedly particularly harmful to the elderly.

Sassa said it had decided to bring forward the payment of April's grants by two days, from 1 April to 30 March. All other grants, like child support grants, should be collected from 1 April, the agency said.

"It is important to stress that payments on the first two days will be for the elderly and people living with disabilities. This emphasis on prioritising the older persons and disability grants is an effort to ease congestion at retailers and bank infrastructure to help minimise the risk of infection."

Beneficiaries who normally collect their grants at cash pay points, will be able to do so from Friday, 3 April, according to the different dates communicated to them in the previous payment cycle.

READ MORE | Sassa to pay grants early for the elderly and disabled amid coronavirus outbreak

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.

Positive cases worldwide are now more than 297 000, while deaths are more getting close to 13 000.

Six countries, China, Italy, Iran, Spain and Germany,United States and France all have more than 20 000 cases.

Four countries now have more than 1 000 deaths - Italy, China, Iran and Spain.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Close to one billion people worldwide were confined to their homes on Saturday as the global coronavirus death toll shot past 11 000 and US states rolled out lockdown measures already imposed across swathes of Europe.

The pandemic has completely upended lives across the planet, restricting movement, shutting schools and forcing millions to work from home.

While President Donald Trump insisted the United States was "winning" the war against the virus, individual states dramatically ramped up restrictions, with New York and Illinois joining California in ordering residents to stay home.

The virus death toll surged past 11 000 worldwide, with 4000 alone in worst-hit Italy where the daily number of fatalities has shot up relentlessly over the past week.

READ MORE | Nearly one billion people confined to homes globally to curb virus

Governments across the world are galvanising every surveillance tool at their disposal to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Countries have been quick to use the one tool almost all of us carry with us – our smartphones.

A new live index of ramped up security measures by Top10VPN details the countries which have already brought in measures to track the phones of coronavirus patients, ranging from anonymised aggregated data to monitor the movement of people more generally, to the tracking of individual suspected patients and their contacts, known as "contact tracing."

Other countries are likely to follow suit. The US is reportedly in talks with Facebook and Google to use anonymised location data to track the spread of the disease - although Mark Zuckerberg subsequently denied this. And the UK's top scientist has endorsed the use of contact tracing.

READ MORE | 10 countries are now tracking phone data as Covid-19 heralds a massive increase in surveillance

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

  • Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections 
  • Maintain social 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