Coronavirus morning recap: Latest on antibodies, masks, and a mutated strain of Covid in Europe



READ | Covid-19: Antibody levels ‘waning quite rapidly’ after infection, new study finds

Antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, was found to decline rapidly in the British population, a Real-Time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) study found.

The study, by Imperial College London and market research firm Ipsos Mori, is one of the largest of its kind in Britain to suggest that neutralising antibodies, which can prevent an infection from taking hold, may only last a few months.

The data included samples from hundreds of thousands of people across England between mid-June and late September.

According to the researchers, the prevalence of virus antibodies fell by more than a quarter during this period. Their findings also suggest the loss of antibodies was slower in 18–24 year-olds compared to those aged 75 and over.

“Our study shows that over time there is a reduction in the proportion of people testing positive for antibodies,” explained Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial.

Their findings have been published in a pre-print report and will be submitted for peer-review.

READ | Coronavirus in a cough: Tests show masks stopping the spread

A cough could spread a cloud of Covid-19 throughout a room, but a face mask can greatly shrink the size and spread of that cloud, a new study finds.

In fact, the volume of the cloud without a mask is about seven times larger than with a surgical mask and 23 times larger than with an N95 mask, the researchers found.

"We found that anything that reduces the distance travelled by the cloud, such as a mask, handkerchief, or coughing into an elbow, should greatly reduce the region over which the droplets disperse upon coughing, and therefore the chances of infection," said researcher Rajneesh Bhardwaj, from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in Mumbai.

Using jet theory and data from the literature, Bhardwaj and colleague Amit Agrawal found the first five to eight seconds after coughing is critical for suspending droplets in the air and the spread of the disease. After that, the cough cloud starts to break up.

The study findings helped the researchers develop a formula to determine the maximum number of people that can be in a hospital ward, and the rate at which air in a room, elevator, movie theatre, car, plane cabin or restaurant needs to be circulated to keep the air fresh and reduce the odds of infection.

The report was published online on 20 October in the journal Physics of Fluids.


SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 721 770.

According to the latest update, 19 164 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 649 935 recoveries.

So far, more than 4.7 million tests have been conducted, with 25 013 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

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

Late on Thursday evening, positive cases worldwide were 44.7 million while deaths were close to 1.2 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - 8.9 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 230 000.


Latest news:

READ | A mutated strain of Covid-19 causes most new infections in Europe, spread by tourists - scientists

The majority of new Covid-19 cases in Europe stem from a mutated strain of the virus that started in Spain and was spread across the continent by tourists, scientists said in a report Thursday.

The variant likely originated in farm workers in northeast Spain, where it was first recorded in June, they said.

The team of scientists from the University of Basel, ETH Zürich in Basel, and SeqCovid in Spain said a suspected "superspreader" event accounted for early proliferation of the virus, which was then spread abroad by tourists and other travellers.

By October, the variant had been identified in 12 countries across the continent, as well as Hong Kong and New Zealand, they said.

There is no data yet to suggest this variant is more deadly, they said.

The variant of SARS-CoV-2, known as 20A.EU1, had spread to at least six European countries by late July.

READ | Covid-19: Europe's outbreak worsening from disaster to catastrophe, as US scrambles to contain 3rd wave 

Europe's Covid-19 crisis is worsening, while the US is struggling to keep new infections down.

The initial outbreak that hit Western Europe in March and April had subsided by the summer, but as autumn arrived, so has a second wave of infections.

The US, which hit the peak of its first outbreak a little later than Europe, is also struggling under the weight of a wave of new infections.

In the last 14 days, the US, France, Italy, Germany, Britain, and Sweden — which had opted against lockdown measures during the pandemic — all reported record numbers of new daily infections.

Last Sunday, Italy reported a new high of 21,273 daily new coronavirus cases, while in France, a record 52,010 people tested positive. On Thursday, a record 16,744 people tested positive in Germany. And on Wednesday, Sweden registered a new peak of 1,980 new COVID-19 cases.

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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