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Infectious Diseases

Updated 24 March 2020

Coronavirus morning update: SA prepares for lockdown as confirmed cases hit 402

Your latest coronavirus news: SA is going into lockdown as confirmed cases surge; the UK has also announced strict measures to control the spread of the virus; and the WHO begins megatrial as it tries to find the most effective treatment.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 402, after 128 new cases were reported.

All nine provinces now have confirmed cases, after confirmed reports in the Northern Cape and the North West.

The province with the most cases is Gauteng with 207, while the Western cape has 100 cases.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

President Cyril Ramaphosa has made the dramatic announcement of a three-week national shutdown, as part of wide-ranging interventions to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The most notable measure was the prohibition of South Africans from leaving their homes unless for essential purposes.

Ramaphosa addressed the nation from the Union Buildings in Pretoria after marathon meetings with the National Coronavirus Command Council which started on Sunday.

The lockdown will be effective from midnight on Thursday.

The army will be deployed to ensure citizens are obeying the new interventions. 

READ MORE | Coronavirus: Ramaphosa announces 3-week national lockdown

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a public health management programme to increase screening, testing, contact tracing and medical management to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

He said this during his national address at the Union Buildings in which he declared a country-wide lockdown from midnight on Thursday. 

Ramaphosa said a system would be put in place for centralised patient management for severe cases and decentralised primary care for mild cases.

READ MORE | Ramaphosa announces increased screening and testing during coronavirus lockdown

In his address, Ramaphosa said that businesses that may continue operation will include:

  • pharmacies
  • laboratories
  • banks
  • essential finance systems, such as the JSE
  • supermarkets
  • petrol stations
  • healthcare providers
  • companies involved in making or distributing food, basic goods, and medical supplies.

Ramaphosa promised that provision would be made for "essential transport services to continue, including transport for essential staff and for patients who need to be managed elsewhere".

Companies with continuous operations, such as furnaces and underground mines, will be expected to put their operations on care and maintenance, Ramaphosa said.

READ MORE | These are the types of stores and businesses that will remain open during SA’s lockdown

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a raft of "quick and targeted" economic interventions, including a solidarity fund run by the private sector, promises of increased assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises, and tax subsidies of up to R500 a month for some workers earning below R6 500 a month, in an effort to buoy SA's economy. 

This comes as countries around the world scramble to pass economic rescue packages as the impact of the virus severely constrains economic activity, causing stock markets to plunge and layoffs to surge, as analysts warn of a global recession.  

Ramaphosa, addressing the nation on Monday evening, announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days in a bid to slow down the spread of the pandemic. The president said that while the economic impact of the lockdown would be significant, the "costs of not acting now will be far greater". 

READ MORE | Ramaphosa announces raft of 'quick, targeted' interventions to buoy SA economy

South Africans arriving home from high-risk countries will have to be quarantined for 14 days, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday.

The travel restrictions were announced as part of a nationwide lockdown that will take effect on Thursday.

The lockdown includes several measures that will be implemented to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus to "flatten the curve".

The restrictions will have an impact on South Africans and travellers arriving from high-risk countries.

READ MORE | National lockdown: No entry for non-South Africans from high-risk countries - Ramaphosa

On Monday night President Cyril Ramaphosa became a wartime president. And he showed South Africans the only way home is to unite around a single purpose, and that is to defeat Covid-19.

Ramaphosa's war isn't against fascism or apartheid, or even unemployment and inequality. It's against a virus that has, as of last night, infected every major nation on the globe, caused enormous damage to the global economy, has seen more than 332 000 people being infected and caused more than 14 500 deaths.

It is a global crisis, and one which has exposed many world leaders – including those of the most advanced democracies and economies in the world – as inept, ill-informed, sluggish and incompetent.

In South Africa the infection curve has started to steepen. In the last 24 hours the number of infections has shot up from 274 to 402 cases, a jump of almost 47% in one day.

It is expected that the velocity of South African infections will only increase, and that only an extraordinary national effort will be able to prevent a full-scale national catastrophe.

Ramaphosa has recognised the scale of the challenge this country faces and has acted with clarity, calm and determination. He has addressed the country twice in eight days, twice delivering a statement with gravitas and empathy, girded by the reality of our situation and clear plans how government intends to respond.

READ MORE | The night Cyril Ramaphosa became a wartime president

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 380 000, while deaths are more than 16 500.

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

Italy has by far the most deaths, having now gone past 6 000. 

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

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Britain on Monday ordered a three-week lockdown to tackle the spread of coronavirus, shutting "non-essential" shops and services, and banning gatherings of more than two people.

"Stay at home," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address to the nation, as he unveiled unprecedented peacetime measures after the country's death toll climbed to 335.

The announcement came after outrage in government that recommendations about reducing social contact to minimise close-contact transmission of the virus were being ignored.

Crowds of people were seen enjoying weekend spring sunshine in parks and countryside across the country, prompting calls for tougher action to be imposed

READ MORE | Boris Johnson orders three-week lockdown to tackle coronavirus in the UK

The new coronavirus pandemic is clearly "accelerating", the World Health Organisation warned on Monday, but said it was still possible to "change the trajectory" of the outbreak.

"The pandemic is accelerating," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in a virtual news briefing.

He said it took 67 days from the beginning of the outbreak in China in late December for the virus to infect the first 100 000 people worldwide.

In comparison, it took 11 days for the second 100 000 cases and just four days for the third 100 000 cases, he said.

The number of cases is believed to represent only a fraction of the true number of infections, with many countries only testing the most severe cases in need of hospitalisation.

READ MORE | Coronavirus pandemic 'accelerating': WHO chief

LATEST RESEARCH

Currently, there is no existing specific treatment or vaccine to combat the new coronavirus. But could existing drugs crack the code?

On Friday, 20 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the Solidarity Trial – an aggressive effort across a number of countries to help combat coronavirus-related deaths.

The countries joining the trial are Thailand, Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland.

According to Daniel Kertesz, Thailand WHO representative, this global pandemic requires urgent global solutions and the goal of the trial is to help identify medicines that will save lives in the global battle to fight the virus.

READ MORE | Fighting the coronavirus: WHO launches global trial of most promising treatments

When we are down with the seasonal flu, we may notice that our sense of taste and smell are gone.

Also with the new coronavirus, a sudden, profound loss of smell appears to be a key indicator of the virus, even when there are no other symptoms present.

Anosmia is a term we use to describe a total or partial loss of smell, which can be caused by a blocked nose or something more serious such as a head injury.

According to evidence compiled by leading rhinologists in the UK, anyone experiencing a sudden loss of smell may be a hidden, asymptomatic carrier of the Covid-19 virus. Because they don’t meet the vital criteria to be tested (two or more symptoms and a travel history), they are unlikely to get a definite positive and may spread the virus unknowingly.

READ MORE | Hidden coronavirus carriers with mild cases - these symptoms could give clues to an infection

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