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Infectious Diseases

15 September 2020

Coronavirus morning update: Possible talks on move to Level 1, and latest on Covid corruption

The president is expected to hold high level meetings, where discussions may be held on a move to lockdown Level 1; and the SIU pounces on a Western Cape municipality.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 650 749.

According to the latest update, 15 499 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 579 289 recoveries.

So far, a total of 3.92 million tests have been conducted, with 10 136 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to chair virtual meetings of the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC) and National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on Tuesday, where discussions may be held on moving the country to level 1 of the lockdown.

The presidency on Monday said the PCC meeting, co-chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza, would bring together ministers, premiers, and the leadership of the South African Local Government Association.

According to the statement, the meeting is expected to deliberate on a report from the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on the country's response to the pandemic.

It is expected that a move to Level 1 of the lockdown may form part of the discussions.

Last week, during a question and answer session, Ramaphosa hinted that a move to level 1 may be on the cards.

READ MORE | Lockdown Level 1: Ramaphosa to hold high level meetings, discuss possible easing of regulations

The Special investigating Unit (SIU) descended on the Cederberg Municipality in the Western Cape on Monday with a search and seizure warrant as it extends its personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement probe.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the unit went in to seize documents.

This development is related to a probe of the Matzikama Municipality's spending on PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic, and to see whether proper procedures were followed.

Investigators were following a possible link between three companies it has flagged in the Matzikama investigation, to the ANC-run Cederberg Municipality, leading to Monday's actions.

Kganyago said he could not reveal the companies' names and the amounts concerned were not available yet as the documents had to be examined first.

READ MORE | Covid-19 corruption: SIU pounces on Western Cape municipality, seizes documents

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.

Early on Tuesday morning, positive cases worldwide were more tan 29.14 million, while deaths were close to 926 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 6.54 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 194 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

A collective failure by political leaders to heed warnings and prepare for an infectious disease pandemic has transformed "a world at risk" to a "world in disorder", according to a report on international epidemic preparedness.

"Financial and political investments in preparedness have been insufficient, and we are all paying the price," said the report by The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB).

"It is not as if the world has lacked the opportunity to take these steps," it said. "There have been numerous calls for action ... yet none has generated the changes needed."

The GPMB, co-convened by the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), is co-chaired by former WHO director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland.

The board's 2019 report, released a few months before the novel coronavirus emerged in China, said there was a real threat of "a rapidly spreading pandemic due to a lethal respiratory pathogen" and warned such an event could kill millions and wreak havoc on the global economy.

READ MORE | 'A world in disorder': Pandemic preparedness panel slams collective failure to heed warnings

The World Health Organization's emergencies chief said on Monday that we need to fundamentally rethink our relationship with the elderly after huge losses to Covid-19 in nursing homes across the world "robbed us of a generation of wisdom".

In a speech about the human rights implications of the Covid-19 pandemic at the United Nations in Geneva, Dr Mike Ryan urged countries to see elderly care as a "rights issue".

Fatality rates in care homes have been high, partly because the elderly are more vulnerable to the disease but also because the response has been lacking, leading to some centres being overwhelmed, with bodies left unattended in rooms even in some rich countries.

"We need to fundamentally rethink the relationship we have with older generations and the way in which we provide care for that generation," said Ryan. "We need to see the needs of our older generation as a rights issue - the right to be cared for, the right to social contact," he said.

Fatality rates in care homes have been high, accounting for up to 80 percent of Covid-19 deaths in some high-income countries, Ryan said, without naming them.

READ MORE | WHO calls for 'rethink' of elderly care after Covid-19 losses

The boss of the world's biggest vaccine producer has warned that it will take at least four years to make enough vaccines for the entire global population.

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, told the Financial Times on Monday that pharmaceutical companies are not increasing production capacity fast enough to vaccinate everyone before 2024.

"It's going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet," Poonawalla said.

The world will need 15 billion doses if the Covid-19 vaccine requires two jabs, as measles does, he said. "I know the world wants to be optimistic on it [but] I have not heard of anyone coming even close to that [level] right now," he said.

Poonawalla is in talks with investors about raising $600 million to increase the company's production capacity and meet its target of producing 1 billion doses, he said. "We're doing a ... raise and diluting equity so that we have enough capital to manage the raw materials and equipment we need in the next one or two years to operate at this scale," he said.

READ MORE | We won't have enough Covid-19 vaccine until 2024, warns world's largest vaccine producer

LATEST RESEARCH

On 24 August 2020, researchers in Hong Kong reported what appeared to be the first confirmed case of true Covid-19 reinfection. The patient is a 33-year-old man who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 late in March. Four months later, he tested positive again.

Since then, there have been very few reported cases of reinfections. Earlier in the outbreak, it was debated whether such cases were the result of continuous viral shedding, or actual reinfection.

This has spurred scientists to question whether these cases of reinfection can tell us more about the immune system vs. Covid-19, and what that would mean for successful vaccine development.

As more and more information started surfacing regarding patients testing positive more than once, an article in Nature identified three questions that researchers should answer to determine the impact of these reinfections at population level.

READ MORE | Three things scientists still need to learn about Covid-19 reinfections

The severity of Covid-19 is generally mediated by the human body's immune response. Everyone's immunity is different – which is why reactions to the virus are so varied – and there are various genetic, environmental and chronic disease factors that can influence this response.

One such factor is obesity. Those who have a BMI of more than 40 are 2.6 times more likely to die from a coronavirus infection.

A new study published by Endocrine Society investigates how this condition exacerbates inflammation in the body, which, in turn, puts strain on the immune system.

Early studies of the virus took place in China, and there was no focus on obesity because it is so rare in that country. But that changed when the virus hit the US, a country with one of the highest rates of obesity in the world.

READ MORE | The immune system's response to Covid-19 may be altered by obesity

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