Coronavirus morning recap: Latest on infection risk, reinfection, and state of disaster extended



READ | Covid-19: Does age matter? Not with your likelihood of being infected – study

Scientists from Hokkaido University, Japan, have discovered that the age of an individual does not indicate how likely they are to develop Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

However, three factors are age-dependent: development of symptoms, progression of the disease, and mortality.

These results are based on the work of a team of scientists who used mathematical modelling to study Covid-19 susceptibility in patients from Japan, Spain, and Italy. Their results were published in the journal Scientific Reports this month.

The three countries were chosen based on well-recorded, publicly available data, the researchers stated in a news release by the university.

The data revealed that, as of May 2020, the mortality rate (number of deaths per 100 000) was 382.3 for Italy, 507.2 for Spain and 13.2 for Japan.

In spite of the wide disparity in mortality rates, the researchers explained that the age distribution of mortality (the proportional number of deaths per age group) was similar for these countries.

READ | Case study on Covid reinfection: While rare, it's possible that symptoms may be more severe second time around

As scientists are trying to make sense of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, a new study has found that not only is reinfection possible, but that individuals may actually experience more severe symptoms the second time they are infected.

The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, reports on the first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection in the US, and cautions that exposure to the virus and subsequent antibodies may not guarantee immunity against a second reinfection.

“Our findings have implications for the role of vaccination in response to Covid-19,” the study authors write.

“If we have truly reported a case of reinfection, initial exposure to SARS-CoV-2 might not result in a level of immunity that is 100% protective for all individuals.”

According to the report, the patient, a 25-year-old Nevada man, was infected with two distinct variants of the virus within a 48-day time frame.

The patient’s second and more severe infection resulted in hospitalisation with oxygen support.


SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 696 414.

According to the latest update, 18 151 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 626 898 recoveries.

So far, more than 4.4 million tests have been conducted, with 24 793 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

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

Early on Thursday morning, positive cases worldwide were 38 344 196, while deaths were 1 088 979.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 7.8 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 217 000.


Latest news:

READ | Covid-19: Dlamini-Zuma extends national state of disaster by 30 days 

The national state of disaster declared due to the Covid-19 pandemic will be extended by another month to avoid a second wave of infections, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Wednesday.

"Cabinet has decided to further extend the National State of Disaster by a month. This period will allow government a progressive and responsible return to normal. It will help us put measures in place to avoid a second wave of infections," she said in a tweet.

The state of disaster was scheduled to end on Thursday, with government previously not saying if it would be extended.

Covid-19 has as of Tuesday night claimed 18 028 lives in South Africa, with a total of 694 537 cases recorded and a 90% recovery rate.

The first state of disaster was declared on 15 March when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country's response to the global pandemic.

READ | Mkhize wants powers to restrict citizens' behaviour and movements beyond a state of disaster 

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize wants powers to restrict South Africans even when there isn't a national state of disaster in effect.

In a hastily organised meeting of the portfolio committee on health on Tuesday evening, Mkhize presented a set of regulations that would give him powers akin to that which the Disaster Management Act confer on the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister during a state of disaster.

Mkhize told the committee that regulations would be "major ammunition to deal with the pandemic".

He said he discussed the proposed regulations with the National Health Council, which included all provinces, but it still needed to be tabled at Cabinet, which he intended to do on Wednesday.

He said at a certain point it would be more suitable to use the National Health Act rather than the Disaster Management Act.

The Disaster Management Act required the head of the National Disaster Management Centre to assess a disastrous event and whether it should be declared as a disaster in terms of the Act.


Latest news:

READ | YouTube to remove Covid-19 vaccine misinformation 

YouTube said Wednesday it would take down content which contradicts expert consensus about Covid-19 vaccines, updating its policies on misinformation about the pandemic.

The move is the latest by online platforms struggling to contain the spread of hoaxes and false information about the coronavirus and treatments.

YouTube, the Google-owned video-sharing service, said it was expanding its medical misinformation policy "to remove claims about Covid-19 vaccinations that contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organisation."

YouTube said it was acting in anticipation of the release of one or more vaccines, and skepticism among many people about their usefulness.

It said content to be removed would include claims that a vaccine could kill people or cause infertility, or that microchips will be implanted in people who receive a vaccination.

YouTube said it has removed more than 200 000 videos with "dangerous or misleading" Covid-19 information since February, including unverified claims about transmission or unsubstantiated treatments.

READ | Herd immunity approach to Covid-19 is 'unethical,' the WHO says 

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that allowing Covid-19 to spread freely in the hope of achieving herd immunity is "simply unethical."

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that herd immunity — where a large portion of a community becomes immune to a virus, limiting its spread — must come through a vaccination, and cannot be achieved by allowing people to become infected. 

His comments, made at a press briefing on Monday, came days before senior US officials said the White House was warming to the herd immunity strategy.

Tedros said that "herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it."

"Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic."

Too little is known about Covid-19 immunity to be sure if herd immunity can even be achieved, he said, referring to documented cases where people have been infected with the virus for a second time.

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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