Infectious Diseases

30 June 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Covid-19 stigma, dumped test samples, and update from Gauteng

President Cyril Ramaphosa slams Covid-19 stigmatisation; test samples found dumped along N2 in Eastern Cape; and Gauteng could see "intermittent lockdown" as virus peak looms.


Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 144 264.

According to the latest update, 2 529 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 70 614 recoveries.

So far, more than 1.59 million tests have been conducted, with 29 911 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The stigmatisation of people who have contracted Covid-19 is a challenge that society has a collective responsibility to stamp out, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter on Monday.

"There have been disturbing reports of individuals being ostracised from their communities and of communities protesting against coronavirus patients being admitted to local hospitals and clinics. This must stop," Ramaphosa said.

"Just as we came together to promote acceptance of people living with HIV and stood firm against victimisation, we must show understanding, tolerance, kindness, empathy and compassion for those who are infected with this virus and for their families."

"It is said that this stigmatisation is driven by fear of contracting the disease and lack of understanding. The best way to overcome our instinctive fear of illness and contagion is to observe the hygiene protocols that are in place," Ramaphosa said.

READ MORE | Covid-19: 'This must stop' - Cyril Ramaphosa slams stigmatisation

Covid-19 test samples were found dumped on the N2 roadside between King William's Town and East London on Monday morning.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health and the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) have launched investigations into the shocking discovery.

NHLS area manager Tabita Makula said the NHLS business manager for the East London district visited the site, and collected the samples where it was dumped.

Makula said one of the samples had a label from Grey Hospital in King William's Town, which makes them believe the samples were captured at NHLS' Bhisho lab.

READ MORE | Covid-19 test samples found dumped along N2 in Eastern Cape

Gauteng Premier David Makhura says the Covid-19 storm has hit the province and it can't be avoided.

Makhura was speaking at BMW South Africa in Midrand on Monday, where he attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the car manufacturer, along with the German government.

Gauteng Department of Health MEC Bandile Masuku was also at the signing, which will see over 700 additional beds given to identified hospitals across the province.

"As we are here today to witness an important opportunity, where we are signing an MOU between the Department of Health, GIZ and BMW, I must say that that storm has arrived in Gauteng as we speak. And when we say that storm is here, we are saying it will take all of us to weather the storm," Makhura said.

READ MORE | Makhura calls on Gautengers to help weather Covid-19 storm

The Gauteng provincial government says it may possibly look at "intermittent lockdowns" as the province prepares for a peak in Covid-19 cases.

Intermittent lockdowns will see the province opening up and then closing the economy for a particular period of time, Health MEC Bandile Masuku told News24 on Monday.

Masuku was speaking on the sidelines following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with car manufacturer BMW South Africa and the German government.

The multimillion-rand investment will result in over 700 additional bed capacity at identified hospitals across the province.

READ MORE | Gauteng could see 'intermittent lockdown' as Covid-19 peak looms - Masuku

The legal team of the Restaurant Association of SA (RASA) has demanded that minister of trade and industry Ebrahim Patel lift the ban on serving alcohol with sit-down meals.

For the first time since the start of the country's national lockdown three months ago, restaurants could reopen on Monday for sit-down meals.

However, while those with licences may sell alcohol for collection or delivery from their premises - they are not allowed to sell drinks with sit-down meals.

"The restriction on the sale of alcohol with meals is effectively asking (restaurants) to enter this battle with one hand tied behind their backs," RASA said in a letter to Patel, prepared by Mooney Ford Attorneys. "South Africa has a culture of drinking with meals, by not allowing this, the department is effectively assisting in the implosion of this sector."

READ MORE | Restaurants demand minister lifts ban on booze with meals


Cases update:

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

Late on Monday night, positive cases worldwide were almost 10.2 million, while deaths were nearly 503 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 2.56 million, as well as the most deaths - almost 126 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide


While governments around the world have imposed strict measures to minimise the chances of people contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, asymptomatic (displaying no symptoms of disease) spread throughout populations continues to be a threat.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimated that 35% of cases are asymptomatic, and that 40% of transmissions occur before people develop symptoms.

Although the rate of virus transmission by asymptomatic individuals appears to be lower compared to those with symptoms, and numbers may change as more is learned about Covid-19, personal protective measures, such as physical distancing and wearing face masks are strongly encouraged. But how can an asymptomatic individual spread the virus?

Professor Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, who is leading the South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial, explained during a MyHealthLive webinar last week.

READ MORE | How can people spread the new coronavirus if they don’t have symptoms?

As Covid-19 sweeps across the globe, respiratory failure is responsible for many deaths. Fluid builds up in the lungs and people succumb, unable to breathe.

But now, new peer-reviewed research published in the journal PHAGE: Therapy, Application and Research, explores the possibility that the bacteria causing fluid build-up in the lungs can be fought and reduced through bacteriophages.

A bacteriophage is a type of virus that infects and eradicates bacteria. The word "bacteriophage" literally means "bacteria eater". When bacteria are infected with bacteriophages, the bacteriophages take over the cellular machinery of the bacteria to avoid them from reproducing.

Instead, the cell is now forced to produce viral components, which then continue to "eat" bacteria as they replicate. They are often used alone or with antibiotics to treat some bacterial infections.

READ MORE | Fighting a virus with a virus - could bacteriophages help eliminate Covid-19 deaths?

As we're learning more about Covid-19, we know that certain co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertension may increase one's risk of contracting a more serious level of the disease.

Unfortunately, obesity is also one of the factors that can put us at a higher risk. A previous study covered by Health24 in May 2020 investigated the risk of Covid-19 in the obese.

The researchers said that obese patients with Covid-19 may have nearly three times the risk of developing what is known as a pulmonary embolism.

But now, a new study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that obesity could be a double whammy: not only are you likely to suffer more serious or even fatal consequences from Covid-19, but you are also likely to be hospitalised for longer – which could lead to further complications later on.

READ MORE | Obese Covid-19 patients may have to be hospitalised for longer, new research says

Diabetics are one of the more vulnerable groups when it comes to coronavirus infections, and while their infection susceptibility is the same as that of the average individual, they tend to present with more severe symptoms when testing positive for Covid-19.

One of the more common side effects of the virus in diabetics is the onset of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

This complication occurs when there’s not enough glucose available as a fuel resource and the body starts using fat instead. This creates an acidic byproduct called ketones, which builds up in the blood and starts affecting the kidneys.

When untreated, it can lead to severe illness, coma and even death.

A new clinical perspective published in Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism looked at what could be the most effective treatment for this complication in the time of a global medical crisis.

READ MORE | Experts warns of potentially deadly diabetic complication in hospitalised Covid-19 patients

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