Infectious Diseases

31 May 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Transport latest - taxi, bus curfews to be lifted and airlines lifeline

Your latest coronavirus news: Taxis and buses will be allowed to operate throughout the day with no time restrictions; and airlines get a lifeline - but it's a short one.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 30 967, after 1 727 new cases were reported.

According to the latest update, 643 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 16 116 recoveries.

So far, 701 883 tests have been conducted, with 21 708 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Taxis and buses will be allowed to operate throughout the day with no time restrictions, but with limited passengers from Monday.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has announced minibus-taxis will remain at 70% loading capacity, while buses, e-hailing transport, metered taxis and shuttles as well as chauffer and charter services will stay at 50%.

He said public transport vehicles were only permitted to ferry people who were allowed to travel between provinces in terms of the regulations.

Mbalula added such travel was restricted to people undertaking work responsibilities or performing a service permitted under Level 3, provided they were in possession of the requisite permit.

READ MORE | Lockdown Level 3: Curfews to be lifted for public transport

Limited domestic air travel will be allowed under Level 3 of lockdown, phased in for business purposes, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Saturday.

While this could be good news for businesses that have to date been hamstrung by travel restrictions, it also raises questions of feasibility for airlines themselves, which are already facing crippling losses in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during a briefing on updated transport regulations, Mbalula said the number of flights allowed each day will be restricted and based on the reason for travel, as well as the availability of port health services.

In Phase 1, only so-called "golden triangle" airports will be phasing in business travel. OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria Airport will be open in Gauteng, as well as King Shaka International Airport in KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town international Airport in the Western Cape.

READ MORE | Level 3 gives airlines a lifeline - but it's a short one

Game parks and private game farms may open their gates to visitors again from Monday, when Alert Level 3 kicks in, tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced on Saturday night.

Kubayi-Ngubane was describing upcoming regulations for her sector under Level 3, which had not yet been published 29 hours before they are due to come into effect.

"Public and private game farms have been opened for self-drive excursions," she said, stressing that no group tours will be allowed, and visitors will have to use their own vehicles.

Visitors may not cross provincial boundaries to reach game parks for such drives. Under Level 3, provincial borders are technically closed to those who can not show a need to travel on essential business.

READ MORE | Game parks and hikes are legal again from Monday – but no overnight stays and only in-province

Experts have warned against using coronavirus "disinfection" tunnels that some people think will stop the spread of the virus.

Instead, they have suggested that strict personal hygiene, washing hands, wearing masks and keeping a 1.5m distance from others to prevent the spread of the virus.

"Human spraying is harmful with almost no benefit," said Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who is the chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19.

He said spraying hands properly with a sanitiser was the way to prevent the spread of the virus.

READ MORE | Coronavirus: Experts slam coronavirus 'disinfection' tunnels


Cases update:

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

Late on Saturday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 6 million, while deaths were more than 367 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 1.76 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 103 500.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

The European Union on Saturday called on the United States to "reconsider" the decision to sever ties with the World Health Organisation over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump said on Friday he was severing US ties with the WHO, accusing it of failing to do enough to combat the initial spread of the virus.

The United States was the largest contributor to the WHO budget, providing at least $400 million in annual funding.

"The WHO needs to continue being able to lead the international response to pandemics, current and future," Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a joint statement.

"For this, the participation and support of all is required and very much needed."

READ MORE | EU urges US to think again on WHO split


Ten percent of Covid-19 patients with diabetes die within a week of entering the hospital and 20% need a ventilator to breathe by that point, a new French study found.

Researchers analysed data on more than 1 300 Covid-19 patients with diabetes, average age 70, who were hospitalised in France during March. Of those, 89% had type 2 diabetes, 3% had type 1, and the rest had other types of diabetes.

The study found that one in five patients had been placed on a ventilator in intensive care within seven days of entering the hospital; one in 10 had died; and 18% had been discharged.

"The risk factors for severe Covid-19 [in patients with diabetes] are identical to those found in the general population: age and BMI [weight]," said researchers led by diabetes specialists Dr Bertrand Cariou and Dr Samy Hadjadj, from University Hospital Nantes.

READ MORE | 1 in 10 older patients with diabetes, hospitalised with Covid-19, dies - according to a new study

A new study finds that prescriptions rose sharply for two drugs that President Donald Trump claimed could help prevent or treat Covid-19.

This happened despite the fact that multiple studies found the medicines might only bring harm to patients with coronavirus illness.

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, found that prescriptions for the two drugs – hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine – rose by a staggering 2 000% during the week of 15 March to 21 March.

Early in the pandemic, Trump repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as a potential means of preventing or treating coronavirus illness.

READ MORE | Prescriptions for discredited Covid drugs surged 2 000% after Trump's support

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