Most of SA will be on level 3 by end of May – Ramaphosa

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the country an update on the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic from the Union Buildings in Pretoria on May 13 2020. In his address, the president discussed the country’s screening and testing numbers and cautioned against easing the nationwide lockdown too soon.

Most of South Africa will be placed in level 3 of the nationwide lockdown by the end of May, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.

But high-risk areas will remain on level 4, he added.

He said a consultation process on how the move to level 3 will work will start happening “immediately”.

“If we lift the lockdown too abruptly and too quickly, we risk a rapid and unmanageable surge in infections. We will therefore continue to proceed cautiously,” he said in an address to the nation.

The SA economy will likely endure pain for a little longer, with the economic hubs in the country likely to remain at Level 4 of the lockdown for the foreseeable future.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday night announced that government would be working on getting most of the country onto alert Level 3, with the parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remaining at Level 4.

Data shows that infections are mostly concentrated in metropolitan municipalities and districts in the country. Government will, however, be announcing changes to the Level 4 regulations to expand business activities which may be permitted in the retail space and e-commerce.

Hugo Pienaar, chief economist at the Bureau of Economic Research, said that it appeared government was starting to heed calls for a quicker relaxation of the lockdown regulations. But with Level 4 being applied nationwide for the next two weeks, as well as metropoles like Cape Town likely to remain at Level 4 beyond May, means “economic pain” will persist. “Day-to-day life will continue to get worse, especially for the most vulnerable in society,” he said.

Three million South Africans have already applied for the state’s new R350 a month grant, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday evening in an address to the nation.

Applications for the grant opened on Monday.

The R350 a month special grant is intended to provide money to unemployed South Africans who receive no other form of assistance from government.

If all three million applications are successful, the state would pay out an additional R10.5 billion a month, about half its current monthly social grants bill.

Government has also upped payouts to other grants by R5 billion a month, during “a time when other sources of income have been disrupted”.

Early on Thursday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 4.33 million, while deaths were more than 295 500.

The United States had the most cases in the world – close to 1.39 million, as well as the most deaths – more than 83 500.

Latest news:

Pinning down the source of the coronavirus pandemic should help in working out how Covid-19 has “invaded the human species” so quickly, a senior WHO official told AFP.

The outbreak has triggered a fierce diplomatic spat between China and the United States — with the World Health Organization at the centre of the row.

In late March, US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping struck an informal truce in the war of words over the origin of the deadly disease.

But it quickly broke down. Trump has been accusing Beijing of being slow to alert the world to the initial outbreak in Wuhan, and openly suspects China of covering up an accident at the eastern city’s virology lab.

LATEST RESEARCH

Coronavirus in children has been a bit of a mystery since the start of the outbreak. While initial research suggested that children are not as susceptible to severe Covid-19 as adults and those with co-morbidities, further studies indicated that children may be hit harder by Covid-19 than initially thought.

Because of guidelines telling us to look out for mainly three symptoms (a dry cough, fever and breathlessness), we might be missing Covid-19 in children, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Pediatrics.

The study suggests that gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and an upset stomach might be the first hints of coronavirus infection, as SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t only attack cells in the lungs, but also cells in the digestive system.

Dr Wenbin Li from the Department of Pediatrics at the Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China, explains this connection between the stomach and coronavirus:

“The gastrointestinal symptoms experienced by these children may be related to the distribution of receptors and the transmission pathway associated with Covid-19 infection in humans. The virus infects people via the ACE2 receptor, which can be found in certain cells in the lungs as well as the intestines.

This suggests that Covid-19 might infect patients not only through the respiratory tract in the form of air droplets, but also through the digestive tract by contact or faecal-oral transmission.”

While Covid-19 is mostly a respiratory disease, the full scope of the disease is not yet fully understood and we may miss other symptoms.

New information about the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is constantly emerging, which is critical in the race to develop a vaccine and treatment for Covid-19. In a recent discovery, scientists found that a patient’s genes may provide clarity on why one young, healthy individual can be almost unaffected by the virus, while another can become seriously ill and end up in the intensive care unit (ICU).

In looking for rare, ‘silent’ (hidden) gene mutations that are triggered by the virus, researchers are hoping it will take them one step closer to potential treatments.

It’s agreed that the Covid-19 virus causes severe disease and kills older people with chronic illness; those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and lung disease; and men, at a greater rate than young people.

However, in an unexpected twist, we’re seeing a minority of patients who are under 50 take up space in ICUs around the world as well – without any underlying medical conditions.

Speaking to AFP, and quoted in a ScienceAlert article, geneticist Jean-Laurent Casanova – director of the human genetics of infectious diseases laboratory jointly based at the Imagine Institute in Paris and Rockefeller University in New York – revealed that this amounts to roughly five percent of patients: “Someone who could have run the marathon in October 2019, and yet in April 2020 is in intensive care, intubated and ventilated.”

Casanova’s goal is to find out if these patients may possibly have rare genetic mutations. “The assumption is that these patients have genetic variations that are silent until the virus is encountered,” he explained.

The general goal is to try and distance yourself as much as possible from the novel coronavirus. However, a controversial approach called 1 Day Sooner is aiming to purposely infect a large number of volunteers with the virus to speed up clinical trials.

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