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Infectious Diseases

25 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Warning from top scientist, and the latest on Western Cape

SA will probably experience 3 to 4 spikes into 2022, says a top scientist; and almost 1 000 people are in strict quarantine as Covid-19 "peaks" in the Western Cape.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 111 796.

According to the latest update, 2 205 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 56 874 recoveries.

So far, more than 1.41 million tests have been conducted, with 34 122 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

South Africa is only experiencing the first Covid-19 wave and will probably experience two to three more waves of the pandemic right into 2022, top scientist Professor Shabir Madhi said on Wednesday.

"South Africa is not in a second spike, we are still in the first wave of the pandemic. We are probably going to experience three to four waves, probably right into 2022 at this rate," Madhi said at a MyHealthTV.com webinar on Wednesday.

Professor Shabir Madhi said: "We are not in a second spike, we are still pretty much sort of in an upward trajectory of the first wave; we have not even peaked, not even the Western Cape has peaked as yet in terms of this current outbreak."

Madhi is Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand and the director of the Medical Research Council Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit.

The scientist is leading the study on South Africa's first Covid-19 vaccine trial which will see 2 000 participants enrolled with an aim of finding a vaccine that will prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, which is the virus that causes Covid-19.

READ MORE | Covid-19: SA will probably experience 3 to 4 spikes into 2022, says top scientist

Almost 1 000 Western Cape residents are in quarantine, Premier Alan Winde announced on Wednesday.

The province has 41 quarantine and isolation facilities - comprising both public and private facilities - housing 948 people.

Transport to and from these sites has been provided by the Red Dot transport service which the provincial government pioneered. It consists of a 100-strong fleet of specially sterilised minibus taxis.

Winde said some people who might have had contact with someone who was Covid-19 positive - and who needed to be quarantined - have refused to be quarantined.

"The reasons vary and include concerns about leaving family members and children behind, concern that their homes would be broken into and their building materials stripped or stolen, and even the inability to drink alcohol, smoke or have visitors while in the facilities.

"We are working closely with community organisations and religious leaders in areas where we are seeing high rejection rates of quarantine and isolation in order to ensure that some of these community concerns can be addressed."

READ MORE | Almost 1 000 people in strict quarantine as Covid-19 'peaks' in the Western Cape

Early childhood development centres (ECD) might be reopening soon.

Although the reopening date has not been announced, the Department of Social Development released a circular this week regarding the preparation and planning for the centres and partial care facilities.

Several ECD owners have been calling for the department to allow them to reopen, arguing that the centres serve as places of safety for children.

Trade union Solidarity's Occupational Guild for Social Workers and their School Support Centre (SCC) have also taken the department to court regarding the reopening of private nursery schools, but the case has been postponed to next Tuesday, News24 reported.

READ MORE | Govt outlines measures to prevent, mitigate spread of Covid-19 when ECDs reopen

The High Court judgment which declared some Level 3 and 4 lockdown regulations invalid, is of profound importance and needs to be assessed by a higher court irrespective of whether it is correct or not.

This was one of the arguments put forward by senior counsel Wim Trengove, acting on behalf of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in her leave to appeal application before the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Trengove explained there were compelling reasons for the Supreme Court of Appeal to make a determination on the judgment.

He said whether the judgment was correct or incorrect, it was still of profound importance.

READ MORE | Dlamini-Zuma on lockdown: Right or wrong, regulation challenge needs to be heard in higher court

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 Wednesday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 9.33 million, while deaths were more than 479 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - close to 2.37 million, as well as the most deaths - almost 122 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

More than 500 000 people in Germany are back under coronavirus lockdown after cases spiked in two districts of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, according to the BBC.

The new lockdowns were announced within hours of each other after new cases were found in Gütersloh and Warendorf.

The outbreak in Gütersloh is connected to the Tönnies meatpacking plant where more than 1 500 workers tested positive.

The state's Minister President Armin Laschet described it as the biggest infection incident in the country. New cases also appeared in Warendorf.

READ MORE | Germany put 500 000 people back under lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases

With coronavirus cases surging across the US South and West, officials are once again imposing tough measures, from stay-at-home advice in worst-hit states to quarantines to protect recovering areas like New York.

Nearly four months after the United States reported its first death from Covid-19, the nation faces a deepening health crisis as a wave of infections hits young Americans and experts issue new acute warnings.

The world's largest economy is the country hardest hit by the pandemic, with a mounting death toll of over 121 000 dead.

Some officials - including the Texas governor - who loosened restrictions on business, dining, public gatherings and tourism, are now urging residents to again stay home.

Three northeastern states that made progress beating back the pandemic - New York, New Jersey and Connecticut - on Wednesday urged visitors arriving from US hotspots to quarantine themselves.

READ MORE | US states reimpose virus measures as cases spike

LATEST RESEARCH

The race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine continues, and positive news has been doing the rounds this week as the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) is set to embark on the Ox1Cov-19 vaccine trial – the first clinical trial in Africa for a Covid-19 vaccine, Health24 reports.

Speaking at the virtual webinar hosted by the university on Tuesday, Professor Helen Rees, executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Unit (RHI) spoke about the importance of Covid-19 vaccine development needing to be a global effort, and stressed that the opportunity to participate in trials must ensure that Africa is not left behind like it was in the past.

Vaccine development earlier this year mainly came from the Northern Hemisphere and was concentrated in particular regions including China, the UK and the US and other developed economies, said Rees. They were able to look at their available technologies and move into vaccine development rapidly, but there is a global dialogue happening around this:

“The concerns that were then raised globally were that we cannot only have vaccine development in the Northern Hemisphere. We really need to have vaccines tried and tested throughout the world, in all populations, and there are several reasons for that,” explained Rees.

If trials are limited to the North, it will result in "vaccine nationalism", which typically occurs when a country’s government manages to secure vaccine doses for its own citizens before it’s made available to other countries.

READ MORE | Why vaccines need to be tried and tested in different populations across the world

As several countries are easing their stringent lockdown restrictions and entering a “new normal”, there are reports of surging numbers in places where the virus was contained. Beijing, for example, reinstated lockdown measures after new Covid-19 cases emerged.

How will other countries avoid second waves of Covid-19? According to a new modelling study performed by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), individual efforts to maintain physical distancing, wearing face masks and performing stringent hand-hygiene, along with the gradual easing of lockdown measures, could be the answer.

When countries ease lockdown measures, it involves many difficult decisions and a delicate balance between reactivating the economy and preventing a second wave of infections that could overwhelm healthcare systems.

"The problem is that assessing this risk is difficult, given the lack of reliable information on the actual number of people infected or the extent of immunity developed among the population," explains Xavier Rodó, head of ISGlobal's Climate and Health programme in a press release.

In this study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, Rodó and his team made projections based on a model that divides the population into seven groups: susceptible, quarantined, exposed, infectious not detected, reported infectious and confined, recovered and death.

READ MORE | Gradual easing of lockdown – distancing, masks key to avoid second Covid-19 wave

As Covid-19 numbers are surging ahead, many of us are worrying about how this new, unpredictable illness will affect our loved ones, young and old.

There have been some reports of infant Covid-19 deaths, the most recent being a 13-day-old baby from Sheffield, UK, as reported by the NHS England, and a premature baby in the Western Cape, South Africa.

But these cases seem to be rare exceptions, as a report from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago shows that infants younger than 90 days who tested positive for Covid-19 were likely to have a mild case of the illness, with minimal or no respiratory complications.

The findings of this report were published in The Journal of Pediatrics and the research mentioned 18 infants with no significant medical history or comorbidities who tested positive for Covid-19.

All these infants had mild symptoms without significant respiratory distress. Out of the 18 infants, half were hospitalised, one with a bacterial urinary tract co-infection. None of them, however, required intensive care or respiratory support, even though viral loads from their nasal swabs were quite high.

READ MORE | Babies with Covid-19 more likely to have mild illness and fever

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