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Infectious Diseases

Updated 12 May 2020

Coronavirus morning update: SA deaths pass 200, Cele says even more lawbreakers under Level 4 lockdown

Your latest coronavirus news: Virus-related deaths in SA are now 206 - more than half of which are in the Western Cape; and the police minister says even more laws have been broken since the start of Level 4 lockdown, than under Level 5.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 10 652.

According to the latest update, 206 deaths have been recorded in the country.

The Western Cape accounts for more than half of the country's cases (5 621), and deaths (106).

So far, 356 067 tests have been conducted, with more 14 700 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

When lockdown regulations were slightly eased from Level 5 to Level 4, it was still meant to maintain strict citizen discipline, but more laws have been broken since 1 May, said Minister of Police Bheki Cele.

"Things are similar to [Level] 5, but it looks like there is more breaking of the law under Level 4. It has been decided that there are places that can be 4 and 5. We [will be able to] recommend [that]," he said on Monday.

Cele was speaking to a contingent of journalists outside the Edendale Mall in Pietermaritzburg. He was there to inspect the level of compliance in the city.

He said he felt that people think Level 4 is "nothing".

He also, again, trumpeted his support for a ban on alcohol.

"[When we came to] Level 4… most people thought we were opening up. Under Level 5, 10 were arrested for alcohol offences. But since Level 4, there were almost 60 offences for dispensing and transporting alcohol."

Cele said the alcohol ban had dramatically reduced violent crime throughout SA.

READ MORE | Cele: More people are breaking regulations under Level 4

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is expected to announce this week when schools will officially reopen.

After consultations with various stakeholders, Motshekga has promised to brief the nation on Thursday, her department said in a statement.

Motshekga is expected to provide details of the final dates and detailed plans for the phased approach to the possible reopening of schools.

The minister held a series of meetings with stakeholders in the basic education sector on Monday.

READ MORE | School reopenings: Motshekga to brief the nation on Thursday

Crowds of pensioners lined up in the early hours of Monday morning to register for pension grants, braving the cold and a global pandemic to seek assistance as SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices reopened on Monday.

Elderly people, over the age of 60, arrived in the Johannesburg CBD as early as 04:30 to take their place in the line, without any physical distancing observed.

Some, however, were turned away, despite arriving hours earlier. They were told to register for their grants on another day, but were not informed why.

Marius*, who had been waiting since 06:30, said when he arrived the line snaked more than 20 metres up the road.

He said there was no communication about whether they should stay in the line or go home. They had been told Sassa would only assist 80 people.

"We are just standing here [and] we don't know whether we are going to be served.

"We are just standing here in case we are going to be helped," he added.

Elderly people are more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection than others, but Marius said he had no choice but to stand in the line.

"That's just the situation," he said.

READ MORE | PICS: Elderly people brave long lines to register for Sassa grants

On Monday, SA Breweries (SAB) – owner of Castle Lager, Hansa, and Black Label – received permission from government to transport beer to its depots.

SAB has around 132 million litres of beer – roughly the equivalent of 400 million bottles of beer – sitting in its tanks, which it can’t bottle due to the restrictions on alcohol capacity at its breweries. 

While it has not been brewing beer since the start of the lockdown, some staff have been fermenting and bottling alcohol. It takes up to 21 days to produce the beer before it has to be bottled.

SAB is not legally allowed to store brewed beer at its brewery facilities above a certain capacity, which it reached last week. The company said it would have to start dumping beer to comply with the legal limits.

"Warehouses at SAB’s seven breweries are now at full capacity and unable to absorb any further inventory which impacts any current beer in the production process being bottled and stored, culminating in the destruction and disposal of the inventory," the company said in a statement.

READ MORE | SAB gets permission to move beer - but still had to dump some of it

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 Monday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 4.15 million while deaths were close to 285 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 1.34 million, as well as the most deaths - almost 80 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

President Vladimir Putin on Monday said Russia's non-working period imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted from Tuesday.

"Starting from tomorrow, May 12, the national period of non-working days will be over for all sectors of the economy," Putin said, adding that Russia's regions will be able to keep in place any necessary anti-virus measures.

The president's announcement comes after Russia registered a record number of daily cases on Monday, with more than 11 000 people testing positive over the last 24 hours.

Health officials have recorded a total of 221 344 coronavirus infections and 2009 deaths.

READ MORE | Putin lifts Russia's coronavirus 'non-working' period from Tuesday

LATEST RESEARCH

As researchers try to put the SARS-CoV-2 puzzle together, they find more information on what has been causing Covid-19 deaths.

A new study has found a link between low average levels of vitamin D and higher numbers of more serious Covid-19 cases, and deaths across 20 European countries, according to a news release.

The study was published in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental and the research was lead by Dr Lee Smith of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Mr Petre Cristian Ilie, lead urologist of Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust.

Vitamin D, the vitamin we naturally obtain from sunlight, is used to keep the response of our white blood cells in check. When our white blood cells are out of control, they release an overreaction from the immune system, known as the dreaded cytokine storm that Health24 reported on in April 2020. 

This cytokine storm is known to cause serious complications such as organ failure, which can ultimately be fatal.

There were previous observational studies that reported a correlation between lower levels of vitamin D and a bigger possibility of contracting acute respiratory tract infections.

READ MORE | Low vitamin D levels and Covid-19 - what researchers found

Many drugs are being tested to fight Covid-19, but now researchers report that blocking testosterone might help prevent the infection in men.

Italian men with prostate cancer on androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT) were less likely to get infected with Covid-19 and had less severe cases if they were infected, the researchers found.

Lead researcher Dr Andrea Alimonti, an oncologist at the Università della Svizzera Italiana in Bellinzona, Switzerland, thinks it might be worth trying this therapy on men with severe cases of Covid-19.

"This could give us a therapeutic window to treat patients that have been infected and haven't gotten better, to see whether this therapy would lead them to recover faster or to decrease the severity of their symptoms," he said.

Alimonti's interest was piqued when he saw data that men were more likely to develop Covid-19 than women and suffer more severe bouts of the disease.

Putting two and two together, he realised that an enzyme (TMPRSS2), which Covid-19 needs to infect cells, was blocked by androgen-deprivation therapy.

READ MORE | Could lower testosterone help men ward off Covid-19?

The pandemic that’s gripping the world has infected more than 4.1 million people and killed more than 282 000 worldwide, according to the latest stats by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Physical distancing, which has become a crucial factor in public health intervention in many countries, including South Africa, has become key in containing the new coronavirus, officially named SARS-CoV-2. And, according to mathematical modelling experts from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), this line of prevention works.

The team, led by UJ’s Professor Farai Nyabadza, an advanced researcher in mathematical epidemiology, Dr Faraimunashe Chirove, Dr Maria Visaya and Mr Williams Chukwu, performed numerous calculations and quantified the level of physical distancing that can reduce the transmission and infection rate substantially.

Mathematical modelling is, in essence, an abstract representation of a real-life situation, explains Nyabadza, adding that policy-making decisions by the government are driven by research evidence of this nature.

“They use a range of these models because the models are dependent on different questions, on what you want to investigate. Our team, for example, investigated physical distancing, but another model might investigate how many hospital beds our healthcare system will need, so that’s why, with our diverse expertise, each one of us can contribute to a range of models.”

In this particular scenario, the UJ team wanted to analyse a disease, i.e. Covid-19, that is spreading among the South African population, and how it is affected by physical distancing.

READ MORE | Physical distancing works, according to mathematical modelling

They're small spiny mammals that look like anteaters with scales.

And pangolins – which some credit with playing a role in the emergence of the new coronavirus – might hold clues to fighting Covid-19.

Genetic research into the new coronavirus has suggested that it originated in bats, found its way into pangolins sold at Chinese "wet markets", and then migrated into humans.

So why doesn't the virus sicken and kill pangolins?

In a new study, researchers at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria analysed the genomic blueprint of pangolins and compared it to other mammals including humans, cats, dogs and cattle.

In most mammals, certain genes detect when a virus enters the body, triggering an immune response against the invader.

READ MORE | Pangolins hold clues to how Covid-19 began – and might end

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