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Infectious Diseases

31 July 2020

Coronavirus morning update: More than 5 400 hospitalised in Gauteng, and latest on alcohol ban

More than 5 400 patients are currently hospitalised in Gauteng, with close to 1 900 in intensive care; and government will re-evaluate the alcohol ban regularly.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 482 169.

According to the latest update, 7 812 of deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 309 601 recoveries.

So far, just over 2.9 million tests have been conducted, with 44 886 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) pounced on the premises of Matzikama Local Municpality and the offices of a supplier over irregular procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).

This comes after members of the SIU in the Western Cape secured search and seizure warrants on Thursday in the magisterial districts of Vredendal and Beaufort West

"The search-and-seizure operations were executed immediately (30 July 2020) simultaneously at three premises, i.e. the offices of the Matzikama Local Municapilty, the offices of a supplier who supplied the municipality with personal protective equipment with an estimated value of R1 million," spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said.

"This resulted in the seizure of critical documentation and information relating to the irregular procurement of personal protective equipment for the Matzikama Local Municipality," he added.

This comes after the matter was reported to the SIU in June 2020.

"On 23 July 2020, the President [Cyril Ramaphosa] authorised the SIU by means of Proclamation R.23 of 2020 to investigate the purchase of personal protective equipment in all state institutions," Kganyago said.

The country has been inundated with reports of alleged impropriety relating to procurement of PPE for Covid-19.

READ MORE | SIU pounces on Western Cape municipality and supplier over irregular procurement of PPE

As Covid-19 infections continue to increase exponentially in Gauteng, Premier David Makhura revealed that hospitalisations in the province are high, but that the health system is still coping.

The Gauteng Provincial Corinavirus Command Council led by Makhura delivered their weekly Covid-19 update on Thursday.

Makhura took the opportunity to tell the province that the health system was still coping.

While admission to hospitals had been increasing, there was still available capacity for Covid-19 patients and plans were afoot to increase bed capacity in August, Makhura added.

According to the data as of 29 July, a total of 5 476 Covid-19 patients are currently in hospital in Gauteng - 1889 are in intensive care (ICU) and high care units, while 3 587 have been admitted to general wards.

READ MORE | Covid-19: More than 5 400 patients currently hospitalised in Gauteng

The South African Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) Gauteng provincial head, Buang Jones, has welcomed the decision by the province's ANC to ask Health MEC Bandile Masuku to step aside.

Jones was speaking during an inspection at the Nasrec field hospital in Johannesburg on Thursday, which was established to assist with rising Covid-19 infections in the province.

The inspection was to ascertain the readiness of the facility as well as the challenges it faces.

Jones said he hoped the investigation into Masuku would be fast-tracked and expressed his admiration for the MEC who was asked to step aside amid a controversial R125 million personal protective equipment tender.

"The Gauteng office has worked with the MEC before, he has always been responsive, he has always co-operated with the [SAHRC] and has been leading the government response to Covid-19.

"We are obviously concerned and hope the provincial government will find someone who has similar qualities in terms of leadership, in terms of clinical knowledge and understanding of the issues in the health sector."

He added the province had seen progress in the health sector since Masuku took over in 2019.

READ MORE | SAHRC's Gauteng head welcomes call for Masuku to step aside amid tender scandal

As Covid-19 infections continue to surge in Gauteng, Premier David Makhura reiterated funerals and protests remain problematic and a major contributing factor in the spike of cases in the province.

Delivering the province's weekly update on Covid-19 on Thursday, Makhura said the province was still in the midst of the storm and Gauteng had not yet seen the peak.

This despite the fact the latter part of July had seen a drop in new daily cases being recorded. From 23 July, new daily cases did not break the 5 000 mark.

Makhura attributed this slowdown to the work being done at grassroots level in the province.

He added while the infection rate had slowed down, this was not an indication Gauteng was beyond the peak, but it was a matter of waves.

Makhura said more waves of infections were expected as the province reached the peak.

READ MORE | Funerals, protests remain a major contributing factor to Covid-19 spikes in Gauteng - Makhura

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has said government will re-evaluate the alcohol ban regularly as it wants to limit the hardships facing the economy and livelihoods during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Dlamini-Zuma filed the reasons why government reimposed the alcohol ban as wine farmers took it to court to challenge government's decision.

On 12 July, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the reimposition of the alcohol ban with immediate effect after alcohol sales were allowed under Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In her papers filed to the court, Dlamini-Zuma has said government has no desire to leave the alcohol ban in place longer than necessary.

"It is contemplated that the suspension of the sale of liquor will be re-evaluated with regularity as government aims to also limit hardships facing the economy and individual livelihoods during this period. There is no desire on the part of government to leave this prohibition in place for longer that it is regarded necessary," she told the court.

READ MORE | We will re-evaluate alcohol ban regularly, Dlamini-Zuma says

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 over 17.1 million, while deaths were just over 668 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 4.4 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 152 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Australia on Thursday reported a record number of new coronavirus infections and deaths, logging at least 13 new deaths, most of them at elderly care homes in southeastern Victoria state, where the government has ordered all residents to wear face masks outdoors.

Some 723 positive cases were reported in the last 24 hours, well beyond the previous nationwide record of 549 cases set on Monday.

The surge in new infections and deaths come despite a strict three-week lockdown in Victoria's capital, Melbourne, the epicentre of the pandemic's second wave in Australia. The Melbourne outbreak has sparked new clusters of infections in other regions, including in Sydney in the neighbouring state of New South Wales (NSW).

"Today is not a good day," Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement. "And, as the numbers show, the virus does not discriminate. It rips through workplaces, sweeps through aged-care settings, cuts through communities – and tragically takes lives with it as it goes."

READ MORE | Covid-19 wrap: Brazil reopens to foreigners despite crisis, Australia logs record cases and deaths

LATEST RESEARCH

Heart disease has become a serious risk factor for Covid-19 patients, worsening their symptoms and increasing their risk of death.

The European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI) recommended that heart scans should be limited in the current pandemic to prevent viral spread and reduced use of resources, but a group of scientists are saying that it's more important than ever to keep doing these scans.

Their research – commissioned by the British Heart Foundation and published in the European Heart Journal – found that about half of 1 216 Covid-19 patients from 69 countries that underwent echo heart scans had serious heart abnormalities, potentially leading to devastating complications.

The scans are normally requested when troponin levels are high – a type of protein the heart excretes when an injury occurs, like a heart attack.

These abnormalities included complications in the left and right ventricles (39% and 33% respectively), with severe abnormalities observed in one in seven patients.

New heart attacks, inflamed heart muscles and broken heart syndrome caused by stress were also found in smaller percentages.

READ MORE | Heart scans and Covid-19: What the latest science says

Evidence of loss of smell (anosmia) as a symptom of Covid-19 first emerged in late February 2020. In April, the symptom was officially added to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention’s list of Covid-19 symptoms. At that stage, however, very little was known about how and why the virus affects an infected person’s sense of smell.

Previous studies suggested that the sensory neurons (which detect and transmit the sense of smell to the brain) were vulnerable cell types, but new research indicates otherwise.

An international team of researchers led by neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School (HMS) recently identified the olfactory cell types that are most vulnerable to infection by SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19).

The results were published in Science Advances. 

READ MORE | Covid-19 and loss of smell: Harvard researchers uncover why it happens

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