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Infectious Diseases

06 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: SANDF medics deployed to Eastern Cape, and latest on schools

Your latest coronavirus news: SANDF medics join Cuban doctors to battle Covid-19 in Eastern Cape; and back to school for Grades 6 and 11, but only some Grade Rs.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 196 750.

According to the latest update, 3 199 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 93 315 recoveries.

So far, more than 1.83 million tests have been conducted, with 38 083 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Dozens of military medics were deployed on Sunday to help combat the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa's third most affected province, where there has been a surge in infections.

The deployment to East Cape province cames a day after South Africa recorded more than 10 800 new Covid-19 cases, its biggest single-day jump during the pandemic. The total number of infections is 196 750 as of Sunday.

Forty-seven defence force medical personnel landed in Eastern Cape city of Port Elizabeth to help shore up the health service, which is buckling under rising number of cases.

"The province is not coping. They have personnel and equipment problems," defence force spokesperson Thabo Sello, told AFP.

"The situation in the Eastern Cape is really bad with infections increasing and spreading rapidly," he said of the province, which accounts for more than 18 percent of national infections.

The military teams include doctors, nurses, health technicians and clinical support staff.

Sello said the province, ranked the poorest in the country, was the first in the country to request military assistance to help fight the coronavirus.

READ MORE | SANDF medics join Cuban doctors to battle Covid-19 in Eastern Cape

The schooling system will see a further opening up on Monday after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga confirmed the return of Grade 6 and 11 pupils. Only some Grade Rs, however, will be returning.

She said the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) convened last Thursday and considered a number of variables, including the rising community infections across the country, and the risk in dealing with the returning grades to school.

"This is what made CEM to consider staggering the returning grades, which were planned to return on [Monday] and 3 August. Firstly, CEM agreed that only Grades R, 6 and 11 will return to school tomorrow (Monday)," said Motshekga.

The minister said there would also be a reprieve for provinces not ready for little ones in Grade R.

"CEM also noted that provinces may be at different levels of readiness for the return of Grade R learners. Therefore, CEM agreed that those provinces that are not ready to receive Grade R on [Monday] must provide strategic and realisable plans for ensuring the reincorporation of Grade R learners to schools within, but not later than, the end of July."

READ MORE | Back to school for Grades 6 and 11, but only some Grade Rs - Motshekga

"We went to her room and found her lying there, her body stiff."

A nun from Glen Avent convent in Mthatha, who is also a nurse, says Covid-19 stripped her sisters of the human dignity of a proper burial, as the virus spread through their compound, turning it into a quarantine site.

Glen Avent convent, in Mthatha received media attention when half of the community tested positive in June. Five nuns at the convent died shortly after testing positive.

When the number of positive cases started rising, Sister Nokwanda Bam, a qualified nurse, took charge, taking care of the positive sisters. She later tested positive.

Describing the death of her colleagues, Bam said she was left traumatised and often could not sleep.

WATCH | Covid-19: Death, lost dignity and stigma - Mthatha nuns forced to bury 5 of their own

More than 2 500 teachers and over 1 200 pupils have contracted Covid-19 since schools reopened, but this represents a small percentage of people in the schooling system, according to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

On Sunday, the minister said 2 740 teachers, of 440 000 teachers, were infected by the virus.

"This is equivalent to less than 1% of the entire teacher population in our country. In the same period, 1 260 learners were infected by the virus. This implies that 0.01% of our learners were infected by the virus," she said.

But Motshekga confirmed that some teachers and pupils had died.

"We unfortunately lost the lives of 11 teachers and four non-teaching staff in the Eastern Cape to the virus; as well as three learners, who are reported to have succumbed to Covid-19," she said during a press briefing.

READ MORE | Only a small percentage of teachers and pupils have contracted Covid-19 - Motshekga

The Gauteng government will lobby the national government to allow it to introduce an "intermittent" hard lockdown with a predictable schedule in an attempt to counter rapidly rising Covid-19 infections, a Sunday report says.

Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku said the province needed the measures to contain the rampant spread of the virus threatening to overwhelm the system and cripple its ability to save lives, the Sunday Times reported.

The proposal suggests the economic hub shuts down for up to two weeks at a time, then reopens for a time, before closing again in a scheduled manner.

If approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa's Cabinet, this will ultimately lead to the limited movement of people and block taxis from loading 100% of their capacity during those periods.

The province may, however, struggle to convince Cabinet. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said they would listen to the Gauteng government, but no decisions have been taken, the publication reported.

READ MORE | Gauteng to lobby national government for 'intermittent' hard lockdown as Covid-19 surges - report

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 Sunday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 11.31 million, while deaths were close to 532 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 2.85 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 130 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

India added a record number of coronavirus cases Sunday, as the world's fourth worst-hit nation opened a huge treatment centre with 10 000 beds in the capital to fight the epidemic.

The health ministry reported just under 25 000 cases and 613 deaths in 24 hours -- the biggest daily spike since the first case was detected in late January.

The surge took India's total tally to more than 673 000 cases and 19 268 deaths.

It came as the capital New Delhi started treating patients at a spiritual centre converted into a sprawling isolation facility and hospital with 10 000 beds, many made of cardboard and chemically coated to make them waterproof.

About the size of 20 football fields, the facility on the outskirts of the city will treat mild symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.

State government officials fear Delhi, home to 25 million people, could record more than half-a-million cases by the end of the month.

READ MORE | Covid-19: India reports record daily cases

LATEST RESEARCH

Getting your child to wear a face mask is already a daunting task, and asking them to wear a face shield over the mask might be an even bigger struggle. Although face masks have become compulsory in public in order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, many children may find it particularly irritating donning both simultaneously.

Professor Claudia Gray, paediatrician and allergist at Kids Allergy – Paediatric and Allergy Centre, said in a live interview hosted by the Allergy Foundation South Africa (AFSA) on Wednesday that face masks and face shields have slightly different functions, but that children being required to wear both together is a little “over the top”.

“Face masks and face shields have slightly different functions. Face masks have long-standing evidence in their favour. Their main function is to catch your own droplets when you speak or sneeze,” Gray said, explaining that evidence shows that sneezing can cause droplets to travel up to six metres.

“So the main function of masks is actually to protect others, and to a smaller degree to protect yourself,” Gray said, continuing:

“Face shields actually catch other people's droplets, so they’re not as protective to the person you are speaking to, but they protect you nicely. In children, especially the younger children who have not borne out to be as transmissible as adults (children under the age of 10), I think either one or the other should suffice, together with physical distancing.”

READ MORE | Children and Covid-19: Are face shields an effective alternative to face masks?

Children with food allergies often experience fear and anxiety, and it is common for parents to feel overwhelmed and stressed too. And the emergence of the new coronavirus has put many parents on edge about whether underlying food allergies could increase the risk of Covid-19 complications, should their child become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Professor Claudia Gray, paediatrician and allergist at Kids Allergy – Paediatric and Allergy Centre, said in a live interview hosted by the Allergy Foundation South Africa (AFSA) that medical experts don't know of any evidence that having this type of allergy could cause complications in Covid-19 patients.

“Apart from asthma which – only if poorly controlled or very severe – is a risk factor, the other allergies have not borne out to be significant risk factors.

“So, allergies such as allergic rhinitis or food allergies do not increase your likelihood of having Covid-19 complications, but as for any chronic conditions, your care of those allergies need to continue,” Gray said.

If one has food allergies, for example, Gray added that stringent avoidance the allergic foods, as well as having an emergency action plan in place is crucial at all times.

READ MORE | Can food allergies put your child at greater risk of developing Covid-19 complications?

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