Infectious Diseases

Updated 21 May 2020

Coronavirus morning update: The post-Covid global economy, Gauteng ready for level 3, and scrapped surgeries

Your latest coronavirus news: The world post Covid-19 could see more regional integration with countries working together, but there are also concerns of rising economic nationalism; Gauteng premier says he believes his province is ready for Level 3 of the lockdown, but the NCCC will decide; and 28.4 million elective surgeries worldwide could be cancelled or postponed in 2020.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 18 003.

According to the latest update, 339 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 8 950 recoveries.

So far, almost 507 000 tests have been conducted, with more than 18 250 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The world post Covid-19 could see more regional integration with countries working together, but there are also concerns of rising economic nationalism, which was already in the works before the crisis hit, deputy finance minister David Masondo has said.

Masondo was on Wednesday afternoon part of a panel discussion hosted by the University of Johannesburg's Institute for Future Knowledge, where he shared views on what the world may look like in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Other panellists included Grant Harris, a former advisor on Africa to President Barack Obama, and Professor Dong Wang of Peking University's Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding.

The virtual panel discussion also broached issues such as opportunities for countries working together to fight the pandemic and the global risks of rising nationalism.

READ MORE | Trade barriers, changing currencies: Economic experts weigh in on a post-coronavirus world

Nine Eastern Cape healthcare workers, including five nurses, have been suspended for allegedly refusing to attend a Covid-19 patient as they apparently did not have personal protective equipment.

This after Bhisho Hospital was closed after a senior nurse died and her three colleagues tested positive for Covid-19.

Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed the suspension of the workers at Grey Hospital in King William's Town.

He said Bhisho Hospital had been closed following the cases, saying this would allow for decontamination and deep cleaning.

READ MORE | 5 nurses suspended, Bhisho Hospital shut after nurse dies and 3 staff test positive for Covid-19

While Gauteng Premier David Makhura says he believes his province is ready for Level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown, that decision will still be made by President Cyril Ramaphosa's National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

On Wednesday, the premier and his executive visited manufacturing companies around the province to assess the level of compliance ahead of the relaxation of lockdown regulations at the end of May.

South Africa is currently under a lockdown, which has 5 alert levels, with Level 5 being a hard lockdown with reduced economic activity, while Level 1 would see sit-down restaurants and sporting facilities being reopened.

On Tuesday, Makhura told the Gauteng Legislature that the entire province would move to Level 3 in June. He said it couldn't work for some parts of the country's economic hub to be on Level 3, while others remained on Level 4 or some even shifted to Level 2 as regions and districts were all interconnected.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Gauteng ready for Level 3, but it'll be up to NCCC – Makhura

The "early flare-up" of Covid-19 infections in the Western Cape is an indication that a similar explosion can happen elsewhere, hence there will be a "focused intervention" in the Western Cape, Deputy Minister of Health Joe Phaahla told Parliament's health committees.

This after several ANC MPs expressed their concern to the Department of Health at Wednesday's meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Health and the Select Committee on Health and Social Services.

The committees were being briefed on the health department's annual performance plan, budget and strategy for 2021 to 2025.

ANC MP Tshilidzi Munyai wanted the national government to intervene in the DA-governed Western Cape's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ MORE | Focused Covid-19 intervention from national government on the cards for Western Cape

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has advised schoolchildren and teachers with comorbidities to stay at home as the province rides out the coronavirus pandemic, even though schools are due to partially open on 1 June.

"If you are a learner and you do have one of those comorbidities, my advice would be that you would need to continue your lessons from home," he said during a virtual press briefing on Wednesday.

Winde said the department would have to get the lessons to the pupil.

He added that the same applied to affected teachers - that they should stay home.

This was after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Tuesday that Grades 7 and 12 could return to school on 1 June.

According to the province's head of the Department of Health, Dr Keith Cloete, the Western Cape is heading into its peak coronavirus period.

READ MORE | Continue your lessons from home' - Winde to pupils with underlying health conditions


Cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Early on Thursday morning, positive cases worldwide were just under 4.97 million, while deaths were more than 326 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - just under 1.55 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 93 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

The global economy could be set back by a harrowing $82 trillion (the equivalent of R1.47 quadrillion, or one thousand four hundred and seventy trillion rand) in damages related to the coronavirus pandemic over the next five years, according to recent findings by a University of Cambridge department that examines systemic risks.

These cost projections are based on 2019 gross domestic product volumes which stood at $69.2 trillion for the world's 19 leading economies. The contrast, in comparison, is visibly massive.

The Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School determined that the potential toll could range between what it called an "optimistic loss" of $3.3 trillion in case of rapid recovery, and $82 trillion in the event of an economic depression.

While lost value of $82 trillion is the worst case scenario, the centre's consensus projection was a loss of some $26.8 trillion, or 5.3%, of global GDP in the coming five years.

READ MORE | Covid-19 could cost the global economy R1.47 quadrillion over 5 years, a study warns


Covid-19, the disease caused in humans by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, remains a mystery that needs a lot more unwrapping. At first, experts believed that the conditions caused by the novel coronavirus were just respiratory diseases.

But as the virus circled the globe, doctors saw a wider range of diseases in their patients, fatal in many cases.

These complications include heart failure, heart attacks and blood clots, which were all reported by emergency doctors in a new scientific paper.

The paper was published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

READ MORE | The many cardiovascular risks of Covid-19 – what research says

A Canadian newborn is a "probable" case of infection with the new coronavirus while still in the womb, doctors report. Other such cases have been suspected and reported in prior studies.

But the mother's active case of Covid-19, along with the fact that the baby boy was delivered via C-section, add weight to the notion that maternal-foetal transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can occur, the Toronto doctors concluded.

There was good news, however: Although the baby was born preterm (about 36 weeks), he was a healthy 6.5 pounds (just under 3kg). And even though testing positive for coronavirus, he did not develop Covid-19.

Still, the case "represents a probable case of congenital SARS-CoV-2 infection in a liveborn neonate," said researchers led by paediatrician Dr Prakesh Shah, of Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital. They published their report on 14 May in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

READ MORE | Newborn may have contracted coronavirus in the womb

The coronavirus pandemic could scuttle more than 28 million elective surgeries across the globe this year, according to a new study. British researchers gathered information from surgeons at 359 hospitals in 71 countries about elective surgery plans, and used that data in a statistical model to estimate numbers in 190 countries.

Based on a 12-week period of peak disruption to hospital services caused by the pandemic, 28.4 million elective surgeries worldwide could be cancelled or postponed in 2020, the study found.

Each additional week of hospital service disruption would cause 2.4 more million cancellations.

"Although essential, cancellations place a heavy burden on patients and society," said study author Dr Aneel Bhangu, consultant surgeon and senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham.

READ MORE | Covid-19 could delay 28 million elective surgeries worldwide

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 

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