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Infectious Diseases

04 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: SA cases top 1 500, life returning to Wuhan, and 8 strains of the virus

Your latest coronavirus news: There are now more than 1 500 confirmed cases in South Africa; life is slowly returning to Wuhan, China; and scientists have discovered that there are eight specific strains around the world.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 1505.

Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape continue to account for the majority of the cases.

According to the NICD, more than 50 000 tests have been conducted so far.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The South African government is prepared to spend any amount of money it takes to save lives.

This was the battle cry from Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Friday afternoon.

“It does not matter how much money we spend. It will be worth it  We have seen the devastation in other parts of the world.”

The minister is determined South Africa will do everything in its power to prevent similar carnage.

Mkhize was speaking at a media briefing at Khayelitsha District Hospital in Cape Town.

READ MORE | 10 people are in ICU as SA's coronavirus cases break the 1 500 mark

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation has welcomed the successful repatriation of 16 South Africans who were stranded in Dubai and Doha.

"The group is currently under quarantine as per regulations. Another group of about 16 citizens stranded in Germany is expected to return from Frankfurt over the weekend," the department said in a statement. 

It added they arrived back in the country on Thursday, following President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement allowing for the relaxation of restrictions to allow citizens stranded abroad to return home. 

The department said with more countries requesting the repatriation of their citizens from South Africa, it would use the opportunity to bring back more South Africans using chartered flights.

READ MORE | 16 South Africans who were stranded in Dubai and Doha return home

Former State prosecutor and current DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach has questioned the legality of the ban on the sale of cigarettes, saying that the regulations are open to interpretation. 

Breytenbach's comments come after the minister of police Bheki Cele called out the Western Cape government for lifting the ban.

Cele lambasted the provincial administration for allowing the sale of cigarettes.

On Thursday, Cele urged businesses in the province "not to listen to people who tell them wrong things", after the DA-led province said on Wednesday that cigarettes could be bought at supermarkets, along with essential goods.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has since written to President Cyril Ramaphosa for clarity on the proper interpretation of the lockdown regulations

READ MORE | Ban on cigarettes: Nothing 'legally' wrong with selling cigarettes, says Breytenbach

More than 17 000 people have been arrested countrywide over the last week for various crimes and contravening lockdown regulations.

Of those, 2 005 were released on a warning by the police and ordered to appear in court, 124 were granted police bail and 7 450 fines and 16 court summons were issued, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele's spokesperson, Brigadier Mathapelo Peters. 

Offences committed included breaking lockdown regulations, and varied between transport- and liquor-related offences as well as general non-compliance.

"What has been a dampener since the beginning of the lockdown has been the consistently high number of people arrested for violating lockdown regulations," said Cele.

READ MORE | More than 17 000 people arrested since lockdown kicked off

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 1 090 000, while deaths were more than 58 000.

The Unites States had more than 270 000 cases, while Italy and Spain both had more than 115 000.

Italy had more than 14 500 deaths.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Cars are back on city streets and shoppers are strolling in malls again as life slowly returns to Wuhan. But the cradle of the global coronavirus pandemic remains under the shadow of the contagion.

The city of 11 million people – along with tens of millions more throughout the rest of Hubei province – was locked down in late January in an unprecedented and ultimately failed bid to contain the pathogen.

Hubei and its provincial capital Wuhan have accounted for the majority of China's officially reported 3 322 coronavirus deaths and 81 620 overall cases.

But with new infections now virtually nil – according to the much-questioned Chinese government figures – authorities have begun loosening restrictions on movement within the city and easing its isolation from the rest of the country.

READ MORE | Light at coronavirus tunnel's end: Wuhan's cautious reawakening

A discussion between two top French doctors on live TV left viewers horrified when they proposed that Africa should become a giant laboratory for coronavirus vaccines testing because the continent lacks the resources to defend against the infections.

In the segment broadcast on the on French TV channel LCI, Jean-Paul Mira and Camille Locht raised the idea of testing new vaccines on impoverished African populations.

Mira is head of the intensive care department at the Cochin Hospital in Paris, while Locht is research director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM).

"If I can be provocative," said Mira, "shouldn't we do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment, no intensive care? A bit like we did in some studies on AIDS. We tried things on prostitutes because they are highly exposed and do not protect themselves."

READ MORE | 2 top French doctors said on live TV that coronavirus vaccines should be tested on poor Africans

LATEST RESEARCH

While racing to fully understand the structure of the new coronavirus, scientists around the world have discovered that there are eight specific strains affecting the globe.

These strains are all extremely similar and the virus shows only slow mutation – which buys time for those under pressure to develop a vaccine or effective treatment.

According to reports, scientists have been using advanced technology to rapidly sequence the genome of the virus from test samples. This shows that the difference between the eight strains worldwide are minute and that none of them is necessarily weaker or worse than the other.

Scientists used their knowledge to compile a genetic sequence map at nextstrain.org, an open access website which shows how the virus travelled across the globe and how various strains developed. According to Charles Chui, infectious disease physician and clinical microbiologist, scientists have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are currently circulating.

READ MORE | 8 strains of coronavirus circulating around the world

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections 

• 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