Infectious Diseases

23 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: SA now has more than 100 000 cases, as 'peak' nears in Western Cape

More than 100 000 cases have now been confirmed in South Africa, with deaths in the country just short of 2 000; as the pandemic nears its "peak" in the Western Cape.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 101 590.

According to the latest update, 1 991 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 53 444 recoveries.

So far, more than 1.35 million tests have been conducted, with 25 116 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The Covid-19 pandemic is reaching its "peak" in the Western Cape - and the elderly and ill have been urged to lock down.

As of Sunday there were 302 people in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in the province. Until recently, a full 66% of people in ICU in Western Cape hospitals never recovered, and died - in the pandemic so far.

If the same trend continues, 200 of the people currently in ICU may die.

Another 1 299 are in other hospital wards. Trends show around 18 % of all people admitted to hospital so far have died.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, has warned: "Our data however has shown that age and underlying including diabetes and high blood pressure present the greatest risk for becoming seriously ill or dying.

READ MORE | Covid-19 pandemic reaching 'peak' in Western Cape

The Eastern Cape provincial government is planning to build 4 000-bed field hospitals across the province in all the six district municipalities and two metropolitans.

This is expected to decrease the load on its overburdened 91 hospitals.

The announcement on Monday came ahead of Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane on Tuesday opening phase one of the R107 million field hospital built by the Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) in Port Elizabeth.

The facility, funded by the German government and VWSA, could accommodate up to 3 300 beds for patients once fully operational.

READ MORE | More field hospitals for Eastern Cape as union expects 'explosion' of Covid-19 cases

The Eastern Cape education department was forced to close 196 schools since reopening on 8 June due to Covid-19, with 132 of those still shut, the Office of the Premier has said.

Of the 196, 40 have reopened after they were decontaminated, said spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha.

He could not explain what the situation was at the remaining 24 schools.

Sicwetsha said the schools, which remained shut, would reopen once three-day screening and contamination had been done.

READ MORE | 132 Eastern Cape schools closed due to Covid-19


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 9.03 million, while deaths were just short of 470 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 2.3 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 120 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Sweden's soft approach to the coronavirus has resulted in only a small portion of the population developing antibodies to the virus. This means the country appears highly unlikely to tackle the virus by achieving herd immunity.

A new study published this week showed that just 6.1% of Sweden's population had developed coronavirus antibodies by late May, a lower measure than some of its health agency's earlier models had predicted.

Sweden did not impose a strict lockdown unlike most European countries and kept open schools, restaurants, and bars, relying instead on citizens to enact voluntary social distancing measures.

Health officials have insisted that is not the specific goal of its approach, which they said is designed to prevent a second wave and slow the virus enough for health services not to become overwhelmed, Reuters reported.

READ MORE | Sweden's 'herd immunity' hopes are fading as only a fraction of the population has Covid-19 antibodies

South Korea is undergoing a second wave of the coronavirus, the country's health authority has said.

"The first wave was from March to April as well as February to March," Jeong Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), said on Monday, according to Reuters.

"Then we see that the second wave which was triggered by the May holiday has been going on," he said, referring to the Children's Day national holiday on May 5.

Seventeen new cases were reported on Monday, following the discovery of 67 new cases on Saturday and 48 new cases on Sunday.

READ MORE | South Korea going through a second Covid-19 wave – blames long weekend and public transport


By now, Covid-19 is synonymous with facemasks, and even though the use of facemasks was still questioned earlier on in the pandemic, the World Health Organization has updated its guidelines on masks since then.

Even though there is convincing literature to prove that a mask may reduce your risk of becoming infected with Covid-19 or infecting someone else, researchers have stated that face masks alone are not sufficient protection and can only be effective when paired with stringent hand hygiene and a distance of at least 2m between you and other people.

Now, research published in the journal Physics of Fluid showed that the filtering ability of a mask may be hampered by factors such as repeated coughing.

The research team from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus stated that while surgical, respiratory and fabric masks are now widely used among health workers and the general public to lower the risk of Covid-19 infection, it is still scientifically unclear to what extent these masks filter out the coronavirus that can be carried through respiratory droplets.

READ MORE | Can Covid-19 spread when someone coughs through a mask? This is what the science says

It’s been 109 days since South Africa’s first case of Covid-19. What started out as tens, then hundreds of new confirmed cases per day has now turned into thousands.

The epidemiological modelling government relies on projects substantial ICU bed shortages as the epidemic peaks. As a result, the Department of Health has expedited negotiations to purchase much needed beds from the private sector.

The ins and outs of these negotiations are anything but simple, Nicholas Crisp, a public health consultant with the Department and also head of the National Health Insurance (NHI) office, tells Spotlight.

“That’s why it’s taken so long. Not because any of the parties have been disinterested, but because it’s quite complicated,” he says.

READ MORE | In-depth: The deals that will see public sector patients in private hospitals

Back in March this year, the world had started collectively waking up to the dangers of the coronavirus, which in turn prompted a strange phenomenon – a toilet paper crisis due to panicked stockpiling.

While many speculated about the reasoning behind this craze, a new study published in PLoS ONE looked at personality traits to determine what exactly drove people to hoard toilet paper.

Researchers conducted an online survey, sampling 996 participants from 22 countries in Europe and North America in March when Covid-19 numbers grew exponentially and companies saw an almost 700% jump in toilet paper sales due to stockpiling.

But why toilet paper? The researchers note that during an outbreak, like with the coronavirus, people have a higher intolerance for uncleanliness and disgust, and toilet paper can act as a symbol of safety during times like these.

READ MORE | These are the kind of people likely to hoard toilet paper, according to science

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.

Image credit: Getty Images