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Infectious Diseases

Updated 19 March 2020

Coronavirus morning update: SA cases race to 116, with 14 local transmissions

Further steps are being taken to curb the spread of the new coronavirus following the confirmation of 14 local transmissions, along with the total number of confirmed cases climbing to 116.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize recently confirmed there are now 116 confirmed positive cases in the country.

Of those 116 cases, are 14 local transmissions.

The latest cases of local transmissions are four in Gauteng, one in Mpumalanga, and one in the Western Cape.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

As the health minister announced 31 new cases, he confirmed that of these new cases there was an increase of 6 local transmission cases.

In a statement, he said that as part of tracking and tracing, we have collated background information on how these patients were infected.

"We will provide information to the public, so as to give a sense of how these local transmissions occur.

"We will however not disclose full details as this information is subject to patient confidentiality which we are bound by," said Mkhize.

On Tuesday he delivered important news on testing going forward.

"I must inform the public that there was a debate with clinicians, epidemiologists [and] virologists on when we, as government must release results to the public. These experts raised an issue of an ethical obligation to immediately alert patients as soon as the results become available.

"This therefore means that by the time a confirmation test is conducted in public laboratories, patients would have been notified of their initial results. This clarification is important because as government, we had announced to the public that all positive results will be verified through our public laboratories and the NICD," Mkhize said.

For the sake of transparency, results were released as they were submitted by both public and private labs.

"In instances where our confirmation tests give contrary results, we will inform the public, make reference to that specific result previously announced and give the outcome of the confirmation results," he added.

Test results have also cleared all the South Africans who were repatriated from Wuhan, China.

They will continue to be in quarantine, however, and will then be reunited with the community, Mkhize said.

READ MORE | Coronavirus: 23 new cases confirmed as local transmissions rise

Travel restrictions are set to be implemented, as the country takes further drastic steps to curb a possible coronavirus outbreak.

These will include travel bans to and from high-risk countries like South Korea, Italy, Spain, Germany, the US, UK and China.

The government will also revoked travel visas previously given to people from countries like Iran and China, and said people trying to come into the country from places that don't require a visa would now need to apply for one.

Minster of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, told a press briefing on Tuesday: "Aviation is one of the high-risk sub-sectors of transport which enables high levels of mobility and by extension the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

As a sector, we are continuously putting measures in place to mitigate the risks," Mbalula said.

READ MORE | Coronavirus in SA: International restrictions on travel to begin

In a slightly more positive light, US researchers have given the first group of volunteers the vaccine for the new coronavirus.

The Associated Press reported that a team of scientists had planned to adminster varying doses of a vaccine to 45 volunteers, but stressed that they are far from having a definite vaccine for the new coronavirus and that it remains a distant goal.

The vaccine does not contain any virus because the trial is preliminary and is meant to test for troublesome side effects, added AP.

READ MORE | First volunteers to receive vaccine for the new coronavirus in early trial

Measures taken to curb the spread of Covid-19 virus in China have had successes in averting new cases and slowing transmission; they have also exposed deep vulnerabilities in global medicine supply security due to our extensive reliance on China for the ingredients that make our drugs effective. 

Containment measures implemented in China have disrupted manufacturing and transit of medicines and APIs, threatening dangerous supply shortages.

Yet, medicine shortages are not uncommon or new and, according to available data, appear to be increasing in frequency.

The persistent challenge of medicine insecurity requires proactive action by national health and regulatory authorities to predict shortages and mitigate their harms. 

Take a look in your medicine cabinet. Do you know where your medicines are made? India, South Africa, Switzerland, Israel, the United States? Beyond that, do you know where the active pharmaceutical ingredients in your medicines come from?

Active pharmaceutical ingredients – commonly known as APIs – are the ingredients in medicines that make them work. They are the ingredients in medicines that prevent, control or cure the illnesses or conditions for which medicines are prescribed. 

Regardless of where your medicines come from, the answer regarding the origin of their APIs is most often China. Chinese manufacturers dominate the global market for APIs and companies in India, South Africa, the United States and beyond rely on exports from China for these critical ingredients.

READ MORE | Coronavirus: Is South Africa prepared for medicine shortages?

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 198 000, while deaths are now nearly 8 000.

Four countries, China, Italy, Iran, and Spain, now have more than 10 000 cases, with Germany not far behind.

The death toll in China remains the highest, with more than 3 100, but of concern is how Italy has now surpassed 2 500 deaths.

READ MORE | More than 150 000 cases worldwide

Latest news:

The European Union will impose an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days to battle the spread of the coronavirus, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

Member states "agreed to impose an entry ban" into the bloc, with only nationals of EFTA countries and Britain exempt from the restriction, said Merkel.

"That should apply for 30 days. Germany will implement it immediately," added the leader of Europe's biggest economy.

READ MORE | EU imposes entry ban for 30 days

LATEST RESEARCH

A new Chinese study of coronavirus infection in children could bring comfort to parents – and highlight the wisdom of at least temporarily closing schools.

That's because the study, recently published in Nature Medicine, found that even though children typically only exhibit mild symptoms if infected, they can spread the coronavirus long after symptoms disappear.

In the study, a team led by Huimin Xia, of Guangzhou Women and Children's Medical Center, in Guangzhou, China, outlined a study of 745 Chinese babies and children.

The kids ranged in age from 2 months to 15 years, and all had experienced "close contact with diagnosed [Covid-19 virus] patients or were members of families with reported familial outbreaks," according to a journal news release.

The good news: just 10 children (1.3%) ended up testing positive for the new coronavirus, Xia's team reported. All were admitted to a treatment centre – not because they were overly sick, but because testing of families affected by coronavirus had brought their infection to light.

Even better news: None of the 10 kids developed severe symptoms. Seven developed a fever, but none of the fevers exceeded 39ºC (102.2ºF).

READ MORE | The new coronavirus: Children get mild symptoms, but chance of transmission is high – study

Infants can become infected with the new coronavirus, but their bouts with the Covid-19 virus appear to be milder than those of older folks and people with chronic health problems, experts say.

Doctors in China tracked nine babies infected with coronavirus that they apparently picked up from a sick family member, and none of the infants fell deathly ill, according to a report published online recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

None of the sick babies required intensive care, had any severe complications or needed to be put on a respirator, the researchers said.

The new report is "proof of principle that shows infants can be infected", adding to earlier reports of infants contracting the Covid-19 virus, said Dr David Kimberlin, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Infectious Diseases.

READ MORE | Babies are spared severe symptoms of the new coronavirus

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