Coronavirus morning recap: Asymptomatic cases, vaccine manufacturing, and Covid UIF payouts latest

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | Many Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic - but how does this happen?

People who become infected with Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, experience mild to severe illness, or even death – and then there are those who have no symptoms at all.

A recent study, published in PLOS Medicine, estimated that 20% of SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic (displaying no symptoms) but still contagious, begging the question, how does this happen?

According to new research by Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, the virus has the ability to prevent its genome (its genetic material) from being recognised.

The findings were published in EMBO Reports.

To gain an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon, the researchers looked at specialised immune cells, called alveolar macrophages (AMs), found in our lungs. They form an important defence against pathogens in the lungs.

According to a research article published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, AMs clear out the air spaces of infectious particles that have evaded the mechanical defences of the respiratory tract, such as the nasal passages.

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 727 595.

According to the latest update, 19 465 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 657 500 recoveries.

So far, more than 4.8 million tests have been conducted, with 10 402 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

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

Late on Monday evening, positive cases worldwide were 46.8 million , while deaths were close to 1.2 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - 9.2 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 230 000.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Latest news:

Leading Covid-19 vaccine candidate to be manufactured in SA

South African pharmaceutical company Aspen has announced that one of its subsidiaries, which trades as Aspen Pharmacare, has entered into a preliminary agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc, and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV – two of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, for the "technical transfer and proposed commercial manufacture of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Ad26.COV2-S".

The vaccine candidate is currently undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials and is included in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of the 26 most viable candidate vaccines to go into human clinical trials.

According to the statement, published on Monday, “Aspen Pharmacare will perform formulation, filling and secondary packaging of the vaccine for supply to Johnson & Johnson.

“This agreement is still subject to the successful completion of the relevant technology transfer activities and finalisation of certain commercial manufacturing terms,” it said.

The manufacturing is planned to take place at its existing sterile facility in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Aspen's Group Chief Executive, Stephen Saad, told Health24 that should the vaccine prove efficacious, manufacturing should begin in March or April 2021.

READ | Business lobby says it has learned that UIF Covid-19 payouts will not be extended 

Representatives of organised business and unions say they have been blindsided by an announcement that the state's Covid Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) benefit will not be extended any further.

The relief benefit was introduced in March. It was established to allow businesses to continue paying salaries while their doors were closed during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus.

Business for South Africa (B4SA), which represents a majority of South African businesses partnering in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, said in a statement it had learned with "great concern" that the National Coronavirus Command Council decided not to extend the benefit further.

It says the news came without an official public announcement during a meeting of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on Friday.

Department of Employment and Labour spokesperson, Musa Zondi, would not immediately comment. He said the department would formally respond later this week.

The UIF TERS website, at present, states that new TERS applications may be submitted for the July – 15 September period until 30 October.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Latest news:

READ | UK scientists want to add vitamin D to bread and milk to fight Covid-19. Here's why. 

A group of researchers in the UK are calling for the government to encourage vitamin D supplementation in common grocery items like bread and milk, citing evidence that the nutrient can help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Gareth Davies, an independent medical researcher, is among a group of scientists that have been investigating the role of vitamin D in Covid-19 prevention for months, and are now urging officials to take action, The Guardian reported.

A group of researchers in the UK are calling for the government to encourage vitamin D supplementation in common grocery items like bread and milk, citing evidence that the nutrient can help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Gareth Davies, an independent medical researcher, is among a group of scientists that have been investigating the role of vitamin D in Covid-19 prevention for months, and are now urging officials to take action, The Guardian reported.

But many people could still benefit from supplementing, experts say. Davies has previously recommended that every adult get 4,000 IUs of vitamin D per day, 10 times the current dose recommended by health officials.

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

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