Coronavirus morning update: Bans created new criminal networks, and global economies take strain

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 639 362.

According to the latest update, 15 004 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 566 555 recoveries.

So far, a total of more than 3.8 million tests have been conducted, with 8 759 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

South Africa could take years to dismantle the criminal networks that sprung up and benefited from a ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products during the country’s coronavirus lockdown, according to the head of the SA Revenue Service.

The ban, aimed at managing the health impact of the pandemic, has allowed illegal operators to gain a foothold in the market, SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said Monday in an online address to tax practitioners.

Many illegal and criminal operators have now "marketed themselves to previously honest smokers and drinkers," he said. “They are now embedded in the supply chain and it will take us years to reverse the impact."

Tobacco and liquor remained readily available through the black market from when the ban first kicked in with the nation's coronavirus lockdown on March 27. Producers and retailers complained the restrictions have resulted in thousands of job losses and encouraged illegal trade.

National Treasury data show the government lost out on R9.5 billion in alcohol and tobacco taxes in the first four months of the fiscal year. A 2018 report published by the country’s producer-funded Tobacco Institute showed South Africa was already one of the world's biggest markets for illicit cigarette sales at the time.

READ MORE | SA booze, tobacco ban created new criminal networks

The Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) has just released an updated model of how many people may die from Covid-19 in South Africa – and it paints a much more optimistic picture than a couple of months ago.

At the end of April, ASSA warned that according to its projections 48,000 South Africans would die from Covid-19 by end-August – “if government does not maintain a strict approach to flattening the curve”.

In the end, South African continued with a stringent lockdown for many months, and deaths were still below 15,000 by Monday this week. This is the thirteenth highest death toll in the world, but adjusted for population size, South Africa is in the 23rd position. Fewer than 260 South African per million have died, far below countries like the UK (612 per million) and US (570 per million).

In April, ASSA’s “most optimistic scenario” held that 48,300 people would die, in total, in South Africa. That assumed government interventions would succeed, with a reduction in the reproduction numbers to 1.5, meaning the average coronavirus carrier would infect only 1.5 other people.

This week an updated version of ASSA’s Covid-19 model, which takes into account new research, as well as the effect the lockdown had on the spread of the coronavirus and mortality rates, was released.

READ MORE | 12 000 South Africans could still die from Covid by end-2020 under a new actuarial model

Prisoners will now be able to see their families and legal representatives following a decision by the Department of Correctional Services (DSC), allowing visitors at correctional and detention centres where people are awaiting trial.

The visits will be permitted under strict conditions.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola had previously issued directives limiting movement in and out of prisons and courts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

On Monday, the DSC said it had reviewed its Covid-19 risk-adjusted strategy, and that visits would be permitted under strict conditions.

"It is critical for members of the public to observe that visits are limited to one non-contact visit per inmate per calendar month, and only one visitor per inmate at a time," DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said.

He said bookings must be arranged at least 48 hours prior to the intended visit to ensure proper planning.

READ MORE | Prison visits now allowed, but under strict conditions

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 more than 27.21 million, while deaths were more than 890 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 6.29 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 189 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

World economies are still "several quarters" away from returning to pre-coronavirus levels, although they have gained gradual rebounds in the third-quarter, according to European asset manager Amundi.

China is the only exception, and is anticipated to return to a full rebound by the end of this year.

"The bottom has passed, but economies do not seem to be climbing out of it quickly enough to ensure a fast healing," Amundi analysts wrote in a note.

A Covid-19 vaccine, expected by mid-2021, would restrain the enduring effects of temporary damages and support economic recovery through higher confidence in households and businesses, they said.

While new localised hotspots may not imply full-scale lockdowns, it could still indicate risks to a "smooth path forward."

READ MORE | Global economies are 'several quarters' away from returning to pre-Covid levels - except for China

A sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the UK has prompted concern that Boris Johnson's government is losing its grip on the pandemic.

Almost 3000 new cases were recorded on Sunday, up more than 1,000 from Saturday and the highest level since late May. While the number of people dying from coronavirus remains relatively low, with 2 new deaths recorded in 24 hours on Sunday, ministers have said the rise in cases is worrying.

The new figures raise the prospect that the UK could face a similar situation to France and Spain, where young people being infected with the virus caused a rise in hospital admissions among older and more vulnerable people a few weeks later.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, insisted on LBC Radio on Monday that cases in the UK were not out of control, and said that most of the new cases being recorded among people aged between 17 and 21 who are from "affluent areas," although he conceded that the new figures were "concerning" because "nobody wants a second wave."

Boris Johnson's spokesman called on people to maintain social distancing measures, which have been under strain following the lifting of lockdown measures earlier in the summer.

Scientists voiced concern that cases were starting to grow quickly, especially as millions of students prepare to return to university and children return to schools.

READ MORE | Scientists fear UK has 'lost control' of the coronavirus amid 'exponential' infection growth

LATEST RESEARCH

You got infected with Covid-19, recovered and now want to return to your daily life. But a new study on Italian survivors indicate that you might still be carrying the virus around a month after you started exhibiting symptoms.

Published in BMJ Open, the research focused on how long viral shedding of SARS-CoV-2 goes on for, based on population data. This is important to understand as healthcare workers could be swamped with retesting to clear an infected patient.

They also wanted to determine the probability of viral clearance confirmation with two negative swabs, and what factors might possibly influence their outcomes.

They assessed the follow-ups of 1 162 patients in the Regio Emilia province in northern Italy, one of the hardest-hit regions during their outbreak a month after diagnosis and symptom onset to see how many patients were still carrying the viral load of the virus, and how many had been completely cleared.

From that group, 172 people died, most having been hospitalised with an average age of almost 80 years.

"During follow-up, each patient underwent an average of three swabs, with a range of from one to nine. The mean time of retesting after positive swabs was 14.7 days after the first positive, 14.0 days after the second positive, and 9.2 days after the third positive swab," explain the researchers.

READ MORE | Study of the outbreak in Italy suggests Covid-19 recoveries should be retested about a month later

You got infected with Covid-19, recovered and now want to return to your daily life. But a new study on Italian survivors indicate that you might still be carrying the virus around a month after you started exhibiting symptoms.

Published in BMJ Open, the research focused on how long viral shedding of SARS-CoV-2 goes on for, based on population data. This is important to understand as healthcare workers could be swamped with retesting to clear an infected patient.

They also wanted to determine the probability of viral clearance confirmation with two negative swabs, and what factors might possibly influence their outcomes.

They assessed the follow-ups of 1 162 patients in the Regio Emilia province in northern Italy, one of the hardest-hit regions during their outbreak a month after diagnosis and symptom onset to see how many patients were still carrying the viral load of the virus, and how many had been completely cleared.

From that group, 172 people died, most having been hospitalised with an average age of almost 80 years.

"During follow-up, each patient underwent an average of three swabs, with a range of from one to nine. The mean time of retesting after positive swabs was 14.7 days after the first positive, 14.0 days after the second positive, and 9.2 days after the third positive swab," explain the researchers.

READ MORE | Covid-19 virus and antibodies can coexist in children, new study finds

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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