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Infectious Diseases

03 May 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Stay home as far as possible - only go out for essential tasks, Mkhize urges

Your latest coronavirus news: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says South Africans must continue to stay at home as far as possible, only venturing out to perform essential tasks while we move through the stages of the gradual lifting of the lockdown, as the country's death toll rose to 123.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 6 336.

According to the latest update, 123 deaths have been recorded in the country.

To date, 230 686 tests have been conducted, with more than 13 000 new tests conducted - the highest number of tests done in a 24-hour cycle, so far.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Hypertension, diabetes and cardiac disease are among the most common co-morbidities associated with serious Covid-19 cases in the country, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Saturday.

This as 123 deaths were recorded nationwide.

"We have looked at the data for patients who have been hospitalised and found that, consistent with evidence emerging worldwide, hypertension, diabetes and cardiac disease are the three most common co-morbidities associated with serious illness from Covid-19," he added.

Mkhize said other co-morbidities, which are present in admitted patients, were chronic pulmonary disease, asthma, chronic renal disease, malignancy and HIV as well as active and past TB cases.

"I would therefore like to urge our millions of South Africans who are over 63 years of age and those who live with these conditions, to take extra precaution as we ease the lockdown."

He reiterated the need for continued isolation from the public.

"I would also like to urge all South Africans to continue to stay at home as far as possible, only venturing out to perform essential tasks as we move through the stages of the gradual lifting of the lockdown."

READ MORE | Hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disease most common co-morbidities in SA Covid-19 patients

The Mpumalanga government could be taken to court to release people quarantined in a resort following a barrage of complaints about unbearable and unhygienic conditions.

Seven individuals – who were among a group of South Africans repatriated from Mozambique on April 27 and were taken to the government-owned Zithabiseni Resort & Conference Centre outside Groblersdal – claim they haven’t been tested and are living in a place teeming with cockroaches and rotten cardboard. They also said that they were being served “substandard” food, and that false eyelashes were found in some meals.

The Mpumalanga department of health initially quarantined 115 people at the resort, which is owned by the Mpumalanga Parks & Tourism Agency. Twenty of them were international tourists. Eight left the site after completing their 14-day quarantine period and testing negative for Covid-19.

Melanie Nel, who spoke on behalf of the group of complainants, said: “They laugh at a diabetic and don’t support the need for diabetic food. Boiled eggs served for breakfast were cracked open [the whites of the eggs were showing]. Everyone’s complaining about the food. We’re not eating it and are currently providing for our kids from the limited supplies we were able to bring with us.”

Nel says the complainants are going to court, but hasn’t clarified what application they wanted to bring forward.

“We’re in the high court next week Wednesday,” she said.

“The bottom line is that we’re all healthy, but are concerned that we and our kids will get sick in this place. All we want is to get tested and if we’re negative, we want to go home. We’re willing to pay for our own tests, but we’re not allowed to.”

READ MORE | Quarantined South Africans head to court to demand their release

The sale of craft non-alcoholic beer and gin and tonics has skyrocketed during South Africa’s hard lockdown. 

Under South Africa’s lockdown regulations, the unconditional sale of liquor will only be permitted when the country reaches Level 2 of its "risk adjusted strategy" to fight Covid-19. But products with less than 0.5% alcohol - officially classified as alcohol-free in the Liquor Products Act - are still allowed. And a few, mainly in the craft sector, have been quick to capitalise.

Johannes Le Roux, founder of non-alcoholic gin and tonic drink The Duchess, says their year-on-year sales have increased significantly in recent weeks.

“For April, and during the lockdown, we’ve seen a 150% increase in sales year on year, which is quite substantial,” Le Roux told Business Insider South Africa. 

Online sales for The Duchess, driven through channels like YuppieChef and Takealot, have also increased dramatically. 

READ MORE | Non-alcoholic gin and beer is flying off the shelves under SA’s booze lockdown

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.

Early on Sunday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 3.4 million, while deaths were more than 242 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 1 126 000, as well as the most deaths - just more than 66 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Brazil is facing an extreme surge in Covid-19 cases after the government left the virus to spread virtually uncontrolled for weeks, all while the country's president mocked stay-at-home policies and pushed against directives from the World Health Organization.

As of Friday evening, Brazil, which has a population of 209 million, had 91 589 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 6,329 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins data. That makes the country's per-capita death rate 3.02 deaths per 100 000 people.

Experts told The Associated Press that the numbers of cases and deaths could be much higher because Brazil does not yet have widespread testing.

Since the novel coronavirus started to spread across the world, countries have issued lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and curfews to help contain outbreaks. Even Sweden, which has left restaurants, schools, and public spaces open, has urged its residents to social distance and stay home when necessary.

But in Brazil, there's an alarmingly relaxed approach from the country's president, Jair Bolsonaro - the only stay-at-home orders in place have been issued by governors, borders are still open, and there are very few countrywide quarantine regulations.

READ MORE | Brazil is letting the coronavirus run wild with little intervention - the results are strikingly bad

More than a third of the global population is under some restriction on movement related to the coronavirus pandemic. But after several weeks of lockdown measures, small groups have begun to protest and entrepreneurs like Elon Musk have argued that countries should open back up.

"Give people their freedom back!" Musk tweeted on Wednesday, linking to a Wall Street Journal op-ed from TJ Rodgers, the founder of manufacturing company Cypress Semiconductor.

Rodgers recently outlined two arguments for why US lockdowns were a mistake: The first is that his own analysis found a minimal correlation between states that closed businesses early and their overall death count (adjusted for population size). The second is that Sweden - where many schools and businesses remain open - has a lower death rate than some European nations that imposed full lockdowns, like Italy, Spain, and the UK.

But overwhelmingly, evidence suggests that lockdowns help contain outbreaks and save lives.

China, Germany, and Spain all saw their number of daily infections drop off after lockdowns were instated.

In Italy, a team of researchers recently simulated what could have happened if the country's restrictions had been relaxed in March - or not imposed at all. The results showed that the country's lockdown prevented around 200 000 hospitalisations between February 21 (when Italy's first case was reported) and March 25. It also reduced transmission of the virus in Italy by around 45%, according to the study.

Another group of scientists found that Chinese cities that implemented restrictions before they discovered any Covid-19 cases saw one-third fewer cases during their first week of infections than cities with delayed responses to the outbreak.

"Social distancing provided by the lockdowns has clearly slowed the spread of the virus," Jeffrey Morris, director of the biostatistics division at the University of Pennsylvania, told Business Insider.

READ MORE | Lockdowns save lives. The evidence is clear around the world.

A 12-year-old who was on a ventilator for four days after being diagnosed with the coronavirus said that she "died and came back", the Associated Press reported.

Juliet Day from Covington, Louisiana was discharged on April 15, after spending ten days in the Oschner Medical Center in Jefferson - four of which were on a ventilator.

When the 12-year-old first started developing coronavirus symptoms, they were different from those usually experienced by adults.

Day's mother, Jennifer, said her daughter did not have any breathing problems but was vomiting and experiencing severe stomach pain instead. Jennifer, who is also a radiologist, first thought her daughter was suffering from appendicitis but became alarmed when her lips starting turning blue and her limbs went cold.

READ MORE | Covid-19: A 12-year-old whose lips turned blue said she 'died and came back' after a heart attack

Today's novel coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the globe.

The pandemic has rapidly uprooted life as we know it and left countries across the world scrambling to contain the outbreaks. In just a few short months, billions of people have become jobless, ill, or had their lives significantly disrupted.

But this might not be the only infectious disease we'll have to battle in our lifetimes.

According to research from the World Health Organisation, and other institutions, the threat of climate change could make outbreaks even worse in the coming decades.

Researchers fear that as temperatures continue to rise, infectious-disease carrying animals could adapt to more widespread climates, pathogens could become stronger at surviving in hotter temperatures, and the human immune system could face greater difficulty in battling illness.

READ MORE | How climate change could make infectious diseases even more difficult to combat in the future

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.

READ MORE: Coronavirus 101 

Image credit: Getty Images