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Infectious Diseases

08 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: When other grades go back to school; and latest from the Eastern Cape

Here is when the other grades will return to school; and Eastern Cape to turn museums, hostels into field hospitals to combat risky self-isolation behaviour.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 215 855.

According to the latest update, 3 502 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 102 299 recoveries.

So far, more almost 1.91 million tests have been conducted, with 43 421 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has gazetted amended regulations on the dates when children in grades still learning from home will return to school, and join Grades R, 6, 7, 11 and 12.

On Tuesday, Motshekga amended the regulations which form part of the Disaster Management Act.

Pupils in grades R, 6, 7, 11 and 12 have already returned to their classrooms.

Schools were closed when the country was placed on Level 5 lockdown in March.

Grade 7 and 12 pupils were the first to return, followed by children in grades R, 6 and 11 on Monday.

The amendments follow a decision by the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) which decided last Thursday that only grades R, 6 and 11 would be returning as of Monday, leaving pupils in grades 1, 2, 3, and 10 to continue their schooling from home.

READ MORE | Back to school: Here is when the other grades will return

Government may be winning court cases seeking to challenge their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but they are losing public buy-in.

This is according to Professor Thuli Madonsela who said government was creating a situation where the people were fighting to evade the government instead of fighting to combat the coronavirus.

"They may be winning cases in courts of law but not in the court of pubic opinion," she said.

Madonsela further noted that even though government was winning cases there was a growing lawlessness.

"Virus is getting the better of us because it has become the people versus the government," she said.

READ MORE | Government winning court cases but losing public buy-in, say analysts

The Eastern Cape government plans to turn 18 state-owned properties, such as museums and hostels, into field hospitals after they found that people engaged in risky behaviour while self-isolating.

On Tuesday, Premier Oscar Mabuyane announced that the province was looking at ways to ensure that less people put their communities at risk by engaging in "inappropriate and dangerous" behaviour. He said the provincial coronavirus command council made the decision in order to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Mabuyane said: "Looking at the numbers of people in self-isolation in our province, we have taken a decision that in order to avoid the risk associated with inappropriate and dangerous behaviour by some of the people self-isolating in their homes, more positive cases should be isolated under supervision for us to reduce local spread and avoid a rapid increase in the positive caseload.

"We have also taken a decision to convert 18 state-owned facilities, like museums, schools' hostels, nursing colleges [and] training centres in all districts and metropolitan municipal areas of our province, into field hospitals to give us 2 080 beds, which include 218 high care beds. We plan to have these field hospitals ready soon so that we are able to accommodate more people who will be needing hospitalisation and isolation."

Mabuyane made the announcement on Tuesday as the country marked 103 days of lockdown. Covid-19 is starting to peak in the Eastern Cape.

READ MORE | Eastern Cape to turn museums, hostels into field hospitals to combat risky self-isolation behaviour

The Eastern Cape's most overwhelmed hospitals, beset by a critical shortage of equipment, understaffing and a high number of Covid-19 infections, will be assisted by a military medical team of 75 doctors and nurses deployed to the province.

The troubled hospitals set to receive the much needed relief are Dora Nginza, Livingstone, both in Port Elizabeth, Frere in East London, Nelson Mandela Academic in Mthatha, Frontier hospital in Komani and Tower Psychiatric hospital in Fort Beaufort.

The announcement was made by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane on Tuesday during one of his weekly Covid-19 press briefings.

"We believe that with their arrival; we will see a surge in the number of people who are recovering from the virus... Our hope to defeat this virus is rejuvenated every day by the valiant fightback of people who continue to recover against this virus in their homes, isolation facilities and in our hospitals.

"We want to thank our health workers for their continued dedication and care for Covid-19 patients," Mabuyane further said.

READ MORE | Covid-19: 75 SANDF doctors, nurses deployed to assist Eastern Cape hospitals

North West Premier Job Mokgoro has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a statement by his spokesperson, Vuyisile Ngesi, on Tuesday.

Mokgoro will be in self-isolation, Ngesi said.

He took the test on Monday, following the death of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC, Gordon Kegakilwe, on the same day.

"Premier Mokgoro took the Covid-19 test yesterday following the passing on of the MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, the late Mr Mothibi Gordon Kegakilwe, and he received results today, confirming that he has tested positive for the virus," Ngesi said.

He added that Mokgoro, 72, only has a cough, despite testing positive and will continue to work while in isolation.

READ MORE | North West Premier Job Mokgoro tests positive for Covid-19

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 Tuesday night, positive cases worldwide were close to 11.7 million, while deaths were more than 540 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 2.96 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 131 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he tested positive for coronavirus, adding ithat he was in good health despite running a fever.

The right-wing populist, who has played down the severity of the virus which he has called a "little flu", took the test on Monday after developing symptoms.

In the interview broadcast on state-run TV Brasil, Bolsonaro said he began feeling ill on Sunday and has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against Covid-19.

Brazil has the world's second-largest outbreak behind the United States. Latin America's largest country has more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65 000 Covid-19 deaths.

READ MORE | Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro tests positive for Covid-19

LATEST RESEARCH

As the ban on the sale of tobacco products in South Africa continues, there is some debate on whether cigarette smoking directly affects your risk of getting Covid-19.

There have been investigations into the risk of smoking e-cigarettes vs traditional cigarettes, but there are few comparisons between the effects of e-cigarettes, hookahs (waterpipes) and traditional cigarettes.

Recently, however, a comparative study from the European Society of Cardiology investigated the effects of different methods of smoking, including e-cigarettes, tobacco cigarettes and hookahs, and found that they all play a role in causing inflammation and damage to DNA.

The research was published on 25 June in the European Heart Journal.

This study is significant, as it’s the world’s first comparison of the effects of three forms of smoking on human health, and especially the function of cells in blood vessels, according to a news release.

The researchers stated that there was plenty of evidence to suggest that tobacco cigarettes were more harmful than e-cigarettes, but there was a lack of large studies on the true effects of waterpipes and e-cigarettes. They stressed that the long-term effects of these forms of smoking should be investigated to gain clarity about whether they are more harmful than traditional cigarettes.

READ MORE | Latest on smoking and Covid-19: E-cigarettes, hookahs or tobacco - it may increase your risk

Six months more of disruptions related to the Covid-19 pandemic could potentially result in a spike of an additional 500 000 Aids-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of next year.

Speaking at the launch of the 2020 UNAIDS Global Aids Update yesterday (Monday), executive director Winnie Byanyima said the agency’s modelling shows that a continuation of severe disruptions from Covid-19 response measures has the potential to push up the Aids death rate by devastating numbers. It’s a scenario that would amount to a 72% increase on the estimated 690 000 HIV-related deaths globally in 2019.

The “alarming figures” from the UN’s monitoring and modelling, Byanyima said, are as a result of access to treatment and prevention programmes for HIV/Aids falling through the cracks as the world’s attention has this year been almost singularly focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“If disruptions remain so severe for another six months, we could also see a reversal in mother-to-child transmission that will take us back to 10 years ago,” she said.

“Our report shows that Covid is a disease that is threatening to throw us more off-course; it is claiming resources like labs, scientists, healthcare workers away from HIV work. We are saying that we need to find creative ways to fight both of these diseases at the same time,” she said, speaking on a webinar in Geneva.

The executive director confirmed that the world will fall short of the 2020 target to have 90% of all people living with HIV know their status; 90% of people with diagnosed HIV infection to be on antiretroviral (ARV) therapy; and for 90% of all people receiving ARV therapy to have achieved viral suppression.

READ MORE | Covid-19 may lead to spike in Aids deaths, warns UNAIDS

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