Infectious Diseases

01 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Schools latest - pupils back June 8, timelines 'were unrealistic'

Your latest coronavirus news: Schools will reopen on 1 June, but pupils will only return from 8 June; while Sadtu says the timelines for reopening were always "unrealistic".


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 32 683, after 1 716 new cases were reported.

According to the latest update, 683 have been recorded in the country, of which 503 were in the Western Cape.

There have been 16 809 recoveries.

So far, 725 125 tests have been conducted, with 23 242 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The Department of Basic Education says, after consulting with the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) on Saturday, it has decided that schools will reopen on 1 June, but that pupils will only return from 8 June.

In a statement released on Sunday evening, shortly after a postponement of a much anticipated briefing on the state of readiness of schools, the department said the CEM was concerned that, in some provinces, personal protective equipment (PPEs) for pupils had not been received and that some schools had not been made ready for their return.

"CEM took informed decisions to have schools continue to reopen on 1 June 2020, but with School Management Teams, Teachers and Non-Teaching Staff only arriving to prepare for the arrival of learners," the department said in the statement.

It cautioned that provincial and district officials should ensure that health, safety, and social distancing requirements were strictly adhered to when teachers arrived.

The department said the week should be used for orientation and training of teachers and for final touches on making each school ready.

READ MORE | Education dept now says pupils will only go back on 8 June, Western Cape disagrees

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) says the Department of Basic Education's timelines on the reopening of schools were always "unrealistic".

The union was speaking to News24 on Sunday evening, just minutes after the department postponed a much anticipated briefing by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on the readiness of schools to reopen. The department announced that it had decided that pupils would now only return from 8 June.

Sadtu secretariat officer Xolani Fakude said the union had always maintained that the system was "far from being ready" to reopen on Monday.

He said the union was aware of what was happening on the ground, which was why they were against the return of pupils to schools.

"From the onset, the timelines were unrealistic. We are all waiting for the briefing by the minister," Fakude.

READ MORE | School reopening: 'The timelines were unrealistic' - unions react to postponment

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that scientists who are advising government on the response to the coronavirus crisis recommended that South Africa could move to Level 1 of the nationwide lockdown, as it had become a "blunt tool" in curbing the spread of the pandemic in the country.

But the government weighed this against advice from the World Health Organisation, which called for the gradual lifting of lockdowns across the world.

The president was speaking to a group of editors in a virtual forum with the South African National Editors' Forum on Sunday.

"The scientists are the ones who continue to lead our effort in all of this. They have advised us that we needed to impose a lockdown, which we did. They said it will help flatten the curve of the infections, and with that we will have sufficient time to prepare ourselves, to prepare our healthcare system, to prepare our tools to be able to deal with the spike that is to follow.

"They also said once we went through Level 5 and Level 4, they also said the lockdown has served its purpose. In fact what they were also advising was that you could quite easily go to Level 1," Ramaphosa said.

He said scientists had advised that "the lockdown has become a blunt instrument" and had served its purpose.

READ MORE | Scientists advised Cabinet to go to Level 1, govt chose middle ground - Ramaphosa

Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla has reiterated that the decision to disallow the sale of tobacco products in South Africa, in the fight against Covid-19, is a correct one.

"We know that this is a very topical issue, but indeed we believe that the decision to disallow retailing tobacco was and remains a correct one," he said at a virtual briefing on Sunday.

The deputy minister was participating in a dialogue with scientists, civil society and the media, hosted by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize

The aim of the dialogue was to increase awareness globally of the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine products to human health.

"Tobacco use is a leading risk factor for health, killing half of those who smoke, eight million deaths globally, 1.2 million of those being what you call passive smokers who inhale it, but not out of choice," Phaahla said.

Phaahla further highlighted that South Africa had come a long way, saying that tobacco used to kill 40 000 people and upwards, but had come down to 20 000 people a year.

READ MORE | #WorldNoTobaccoDay: Govt's decision to ban sale of tobacco is correct, says Phaahla


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 6.12 million, while deaths were more than 371 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 1.78 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 104 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

An uptick in coronavirus cases forced South Korea to close hundreds of schools that had reopened only days earlier, and delay others from welcoming back students.

Some schools resumed classes last week with multiple precautions in place to reduce the infection's rate of spread. The schools were disinfected and students underwent temperature checks, wore face masks, and maintained social distance. Plastic barriers also separated students while they ate and studied, according to the Korea Times.

More schools were scheduled to accept students starting Wednesday.

But the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 79 new cases on Thursday. Of those, 69 were reported at a distribution center in Bucheon, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

This news prompted 838 schools of the nation's 20 902 to postpone reopening and stick with remote learning, the Korea Times said.

READ MORE | Hundreds of schools in South Korea reopened, only to close again


Could exposure to the coronaviruses that cause the common cold help protect against Covid-19? Is herd immunity closer than previously thought?

As nations lift lockdowns and experts worry about a potential second peak in cases, our ability to ward off infection is one of the hottest topics of scientific debate.

Ever since it became apparent that children were less vulnerable to Covid-19 early in the pandemic, scientists have speculated that the regular spread of benign viruses in places like schools could have bolstered their immune response to the latest coronavirus.

Now the idea of "cross immunity" among the broader population is gaining some ground.

READ MORE | Coronavirus hopes and fears centre on 'immunity'

Covid-19 hasn't increased the risk for stroke, but when a stroke occurs it's more likely to be fatal, a new study finds.

According to researchers, less than 1% of patients hospitalised for Covid-19 suffer a stroke. But they also found that people with Covid-19 who suffer a stroke are seven times more likely to die than people who have a stroke but aren't infected with Covid-19.

"Our study suggests that stroke is an uncommon yet important complication of coronavirus, given that these strokes are more severe when compared with strokes occurring in patients who tested negative for the virus," lead researcher Dr Shadi Yaghi said in a New York University news release. He's an assistant professor in the department of neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City.

For the study, Yaghi and his team identified 32 stroke patients among more than 3 500 being treated for Covid-19 at NYU hospitals between 15 March and 19 April.

READ MORE | Strokes are deadlier when they hit Covid-19 patients

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