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Infectious Diseases

Updated 03 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Update on schools, and latest news from Gauteng, Western Cape

Grades R, 6 and 11 will return to school on Monday; Western Cape's Covid-19 peak could be 'flatter, longer'; and government hospitals in Gauteng at maximum bed capacity.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed coronavirus cases is 168 061.

According to the latest update, 2 844 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 81 999 recoveries.

So far, more than 1.7 million tests have been conducted, with 39 188 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) has decided that only pupils in Grades R, 6 and 11 will return to school on Monday, 6 July. This after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga met with Education MECs on Thursday.

The meeting, which was also attended by Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule, along with the heads of education departments, considered five reports which focused on key areas in the sector amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the department said in a statement.

Among the reports was the implementation of the Annual Teaching Plans (ATPs) in the context of proposed timetabling models and fundamental curriculum elements to focus on per grade for the available time left in the academic year.

They also touched on examinations and assessments for the rest of the year.

READ MORE | Only Grades R, 6 and 11 will return to school on Monday

The Western Cape's Covid-19 "peak" is likely to be flatter than first expected, but will also last for longer, which could mean the Western Cape may no longer run out of hospital beds.

This was reported on Thursday in a briefing by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, and top experts in the province's team.

Winde explained the first estimates about hospital beds expected to be required had been based on information available in April.

"These projections could not be based on real data in the province, as there simply wasn't enough cases in the Western Cape and South Africa at the time. It therefore looked at international trends, our population size, and factored in reasonable epidemiological assumptions.

"Once the number of cases climbed in the province, and we had more data available to us, we again looked at our provisioning scenarios and checked whether it was still reasonable to follow these original projections."

READ MORE | Western Cape's Covid-19 peak could be 'flatter, longer', but that's good news for bed capacity

As Covid-19 cases have started to spike in Gauteng, all government hospitals in the province have reached maximum bed capacity.

This was confirmed by the Gauteng Department of Health on Thursday.

"Please note that all the Gauteng Health facilities have reached the maximum bed capacity," department spokesperson Philani Mhlungu told News24.

Mhlungu added that the reasons for maximum capacity being reached included the number of maternity cases, neonatal ICU cases, mental health (substance abuse) cases, trauma cases (alcohol) and Covid-19 cases.

"These are some of the reasons why hospital beds have reached maximum capacity."

Mhlungu added that patients who needed to be admitted at a facility which had reached capacity would be diverted to other hospitals where beds had opened up.

READ MORE | 'Gauteng health facilities have reached maximum bed capacity' - department

Since the lifting of the ban on the sale of alcohol on 1 June, South Africans surveyed during the lockdown have expressed concern about the increase in alcohol-related reckless behaviour, research by Ask Afrika has shown.

The biggest concern facing the country remains the fear of contracting Covid-19 (22% of those surveyed).

As the economy reopens, economic opportunities resurface and the prospect of unemployment and a loss of income decreases, thereby bringing some hope to a few respondents.

Concerns about food shortages remain the second biggest concern among respondents.

The ongoing crisis cycle has become a significant threat in the fabric of society – boosting awareness and focus on new hygiene standards.

Amid all of this, reports have indicated there has been a significant increase in crime and violence against women and children, which has been prioritised and has been stamped with a sense of urgency by the Presidency.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Public concern about rise in violence following lifting of booze ban, survey finds

The Liberty Fighters Network (LFN) is claiming victory after Gauteng High Court Judge Norman Davis only allowed Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to appeal the blanket declaration of invalidity he made when he set aside lockdown regulations.

In a statement, the group's Reyno De Beer said Dlamini-Zuma's appeal would only be academic.

News24 reported that Davis gave judgment in Pretoria on Tuesday in Dlamini-Zuma's application for leave to appeal and granted the application on the basis of the minister's argument that his main judgment gives a "blanket" declaration of invalidity.

"The conclusions are that the minister should be granted leave to appeal against the 'blanket' declarations of invalidity but should still be required to review and remedy those identified regulations which displayed a lack of rationality and constitutional compliance," Davis said.

In the main judgment, Davis slammed a number of the regulations, saying that, besides the specific ones cited, "there are many more instances of sheer irrationality included therein".

READ MORE | Lockdown judgment: Liberty Fighters Network claims victory, says NDZ leave to appeal 'academic'

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has called for the services of the courier company that lost a cargo of Covid-19 samples in transit on the N2 in the Eastern Cape, to be suspended.

During an interview with 702, Mkhize called the incident disappointing and described it as negligence.

"The tests lying on the road was disappointing, it seems to be the courier company, we've asked for these services to be suspended. We cannot have this type of negligence. We are grateful to those who spotted and reported this matter."

Mkhize's statement comes as the National Health Laboratory Services [NHLS] announced that it is taking legal action against the couriers Gibela Trade and Invest over the incident.

READ MORE | Mkhize calls for courier company at centre of 'dumped' test samples to be suspended

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.

Late on Thursday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 10.78 miillion, while deaths were more than 518 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 2.72 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 128 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

LATEST RESEARCH

While infection with the new coronavirus is indeed occurring in children, studies have shown that they are less affected than adults. Researchers from the Long School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio recently published their findings on the topic, which show that children are more resilient against Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

The review covers 131 studies from children in 26 countries, published between 24 January and 14 May. It is the largest systematic review to date of children and young adults with Covid-19. It was published in EClinicalMedicine, a journal of The Lancet last week.

"In the study, we report the most common symptoms, quantify laboratory findings and describe imaging characteristics of children with Covid-19," said study's senior author Dr Alvaro Moreira, who is an assistant professor of paediatrics at UT Health San Antonio and a fellowship-trained neonatologist.

The research team’s data included 7 780 patients who span the paediatric age spectrum.

READ MORE | Children are more resilient against Covid-19, study shows

A research team from the University of Barcelona, one of Spain's most prestigious universities, released a study last week noting that they had detected traces of the new coronavirus on January 15, 2020 – 41 days before the first official case was declared in February 2020. All the samples prior to this date tested negative, except for a sample from March 2019 – nine months before Covid-19 was first identified in China.

The results were published in the preprint server medRxiv and have yet to be peer-reviewed.

“SARS-CoV-2 was detected in Barcelona sewage long before the declaration of the first Covid-19 case, indicating that the infection was present in the population before the first imported case was reported,” the researchers wrote, adding: “Sentinel surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater would enable adoption of immediate measures in the event of future Covid-19 waves.”

According to a news release by the university, lead author of the study, Albert Bosch, a professor in the Department of Microbiology of the University of Barcelona and president of the Spanish Society of Virology, people infected with Covid-19 (the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2) may have been mistakenly diagnosed with flu in primary care, causing this to contribute to community transmission before public health authorities took measures.

READ MORE | What local experts say about study suggesting Covid-19 was detected long before the Wuhan outbreak

Although South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown has eased to Level 3, the mental health of many members of the public is still a concern, and so too the mental health of those providing mental health services.

A recent online survey conducted by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) found that while 92% of respondents supported the lockdown, 65% of the people who completed the survey felt stressed or very stressed. Fear of Covid-19 infection and financial worries also emerged as key concerns in the survey.

“It [Covid-19] has had a serious impact on people living with a mental health issue, often making their symptoms more heightened. SADAG has been receiving calls from people with no history of anxiety or depression who are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and stressed,” says SADAG’s Operations Director Cassey Chambers in a statement.

Thabo Lephoto, a senior counsellor at SADAG, says on a normal day he gets between 40 to 80 calls. “Some people would want information and others would want counselling.”

READ MORE | Covid-19: How life has changed for providers of mental health services

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