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Infectious Diseases

Updated 31 March 2020

Coronavirus morning update: SA's third death, more lockdown arrests, and lessons in containment

Your latest coronavirus news: A third death was recorded in SA, in the Free State; more than 200 arrests in the North West for breaking lockdown rules; and how these three countries have managed to contain their Covid-19 infections.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 1 326.

The country's third death was recorded, in the Free State.

Gauteng still has the most cases, with 618.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The Gauteng Department of Health has confirmed that five people in Alexandra are under quarantine after coming into contact with a man who tested positive for Covid-19.

The man ignored an instruction to remain in isolation, pending the confirmation of his test results, and travelled to Limpopo before the start of the national lockdown last week.

He was traced to Limpopo, where he is currently being held in isolation at a health facility, said the department in a statement on Monday.

“The people in quarantine are awaiting their results.

“All known close contacts have already been identified, tested, and are in quarantine pending results. Our tracing team will continue to work on the tracking and tracing of other possible contacts.

"We are urging communities to take heed of the lockdown measures and act responsibly, so that together we can contain and prevent the further spread of Covid-19,” read the statement.

READ MORE | Five people in Alexandra under quarantine after contact with Covid-19-positive man

A 25-year-old Khayelitsha woman who tested positive for Covid-19 has been moved to isolation. 

The woman and her three-year-old daughter were moved from Khayelitsha Hospital at around 15:00 on Monday.

According to her cousin, who spoke to News24, the woman's health was deteriorating, forcing the Western Cape Department of Health to transfer her.

The woman was tested on 18 March and her results came back positive on Saturday.

READ MORE | Coronavirus: Khayelitsha woman who tested positive in isolation as health 'deteriorates'

Two pensioners died on the first day of social grant payments on Monday under the 21-day lockdown in Pimville, Soweto, and Hammersdale in KwaZulu-Natal.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said she was saddened to learn about the deaths.

"I express my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the departed. Both of them were confirmed to be social grant beneficiaries at the time of their passing and I have instructed Sassa to process their payments without any delays."

Zulu has directed social workers to provide psycho-social support services to their families.

She appealed to social grant beneficiaries to comply with the lockdown regulations by using their Sassa and post office cards at local retailers to avoid long queues

READ MORE | Social grants: Two beneficiaries die on first day of payment under lockdown

President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed that the country's downgrade by Moody's to junk status will not derail efforts to fight the coronavirus, but warned that the development would have a negative impact on the ailing economy.

In an address to the nation on Monday evening regarding the progress of the country's 21-day national lockdown, Ramaphosa acknowledged the hit taken by business as a result of the unprecedented shutdown.

On Friday, Moody's cut South Africa's sovereign credit rating to sub-investment grade, joining other two global ratings agencies, Fitch and S&P, which have already downgraded the country.

Being rated at sub-investment grade will "significantly increase the cost of borrowing" for the country, Ramaphosa said. 

However, he added: "This development will not diminish in any way our response to the coronavirus pandemic."

Moody's lowered South Africa's rating from Baa3 to Ba1 and kept the outlook negative.

READ MORE | Ramaphosa: Junk status won't derail coronavirus fight

More than 200 people have been arrested in the North West for contravening lockdown regulations.

This after the country went into a 21-day lockdown that was ordered by President Cyril Ramaphosa to curb the coronavirus from spreading.

North West Department of Community Safety and Transport Management spokesperson Alpheus Koonyaditse said the suspects had contravened Disaster Management Act regulations.

"The suspects were arrested for failing to confine [themselves] to their residential places, while others were arrested for moving between metropolitan and district areas as well as misrepresenting that another person was infected with Covid-19.

"Others were arrested for failing to close liquor premises and some for failing to adhere to the prohibition on gatherings," Koonyaditse said.

READ MORE | Over 200 people arrested in North West for breaking lockdown rules

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.

Cases worldwide were more than 785 000, while deaths were nearly 38 000.

Four countries, the Unite States, Italy, Spain and China all have more than 80 000 cases.

Italy, Spain, China and France all have more than 3 000 deaths.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Germans could soon be issued with 'immunity certificates' which will allow them to leave the country's coronavirus lockdown earlier than the rest of the population if they test positive for antibodies to the virus.

States across Germany are currently in lockdown with strict quarantines imposed in some parts of the country.

However, German Researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig soon plan to send out hundreds of thousands of antibody tests over the coming weeks which could allow many thousands of people to break free of the lockdowns, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

The tests are designed to detect whether an individual has developed antibodies to Covid-19, indicating that they have at one time been a carrier and built up immunity.

A positive test could allow individual Germans to leave the lockdown, or allow the national government to ease restrictions in areas where so-called "herd immunity" has been developed.

"Those who are immune could be given a type of vaccination card that, for example, allows them to be exempted from [Coronavirus-related] restrictions on their work," Gerard Krause, the epidemiologist leading the project, told the magazine.

READ MORE | Germany could issue thousands with coronavirus 'immunity certificates' so they can leave lockdown early

Australia announced a nearly US$100 million boost in funding to tackle domestic violence after support services reported a spike in coronavirus-related family abuse.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there had been a 75 percent surge in Google searches for help during the ongoing nationwide shutdown of non-essential services to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Women's Safety, a domestic violence charity in Australia's most populous New South Wales state, has reported that more than 40 percent of workers had seen an increase in client numbers, with over a third of cases directly linked to the virus outbreak.

In neighbouring Victoria, women's support service Wayss said police requests for assistance with cases had almost doubled in the past week, as they dealt with a form of abuse "not experienced before".

READ MORE | Virus drives surge in Australia domestic violence cases

LATEST RESEARCH

The new coronavirus has been identified as more infectious than the 2003 SARS virus due to the rapid rate at which it is spreading around the world.

The virus can spread through droplets expelled by coughing and sneezing, direct contact and by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces and objects, explains the World Health Organization (WHO). And more recent research has sparked curiosity around another way the virus might spread: through tears.

However, research published in the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) this week confirms that there is a very slim chance that infected patients are passing on the virus through tears.

The paper, titled Assessing Viral Shedding and Infectivity of Tears in Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) Patients involved eight researchers from the National University Hospital in Singapore who collected tear samples from 17 patients with Covid-19. 

READ MORE | Coronavirus transmission: Chance of spreading through tears is very low

It takes multiple measures of physical distancing to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, a study from Singapore concludes.

That finding is based on a computer model of a simulated setting in Singapore. Coronavirus cases are on the rise there, but as of 23 March, schools remained open and workplace distancing was only recommended, not national policy.

Researchers concluded that a three-pronged approach would be most effective at preventing spread of Covid-19. It would include quarantining infected people and their families, closing schools and workplace distancing.

While less effective, quarantine plus workplace measures was the next best strategy, followed by quarantine plus school closure, and then by quarantine only

READ MORE | Multiple measures of physical distancing required to slow coronavirus

Vietnam. South Korea. Taiwan.

All three countries are placed uncomfortably close to China, the initial epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic that's now swept across the world.

But they also have one other thing in common: They've each managed to contain their Covid-19 infections, preventing the new coronavirus from reaching epidemic proportions within their borders.

How they did so might provide lessons to the rest of the world, experts say.

READ MORE | Three countries have kept coronavirus in check; here's how they did it

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 respiaratory 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