Coronavirus morning update: Big spike in new cases in SA, as Western Cape again highlighted as a worry



Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 15 515 - in the past 24-hour cycle, 1 160 new cases were reported.

According to the latest update, 264 deaths have been recorded in the country.

In his latest statement, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that recoveries now total 7 006.

"We remain concerned about the developments in the Western Cape, with the total cumulative cases now comprising almost 60% of the national cumulative cases, and the new cases from Western Cape comprising 76% of the new cases from the past 24 hour cycle," he said.

Total cases in the Western Cape are now 9 294, while 149 deaths have been recorded.

So far, 460 873 tests have been conducted, with more than 21 300 new tests.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

KwaZulu-Natal is preparing to migrate to Level 3 of the national lockdown, despite having recorded at least 45 deaths. The province was the first to report a Covid-19 case after patient zero was identified on 5 March.

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said on Sunday that Level 3 meant more business sectors would open, the use of public transport would increase and, therefore, it required vigilance and accountability by all in the province.

"There are strong indications that, as KwaZulu-Natal, all our regions may move to Level 3. However, there is a caveat that, in order for it to happen and remain that way, everyone will have to comply with all the non-pharmaceutical approaches to preventing infections," said Zikalala.

He said the province's high-risk regions, in terms of risk and vulnerability analysis, must be strongly examined before the end of May.  "Level 3 comes with a lot of movement, including inter-provincial travel. This means that our rural areas, where most of our elders live, may start to be exposed to the virus.

READ MORE | Lockdown: KZN ready to move to Level 3, but 'everyone has to play their part' - Zikalala

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has lauded President Cyril Ramaphosa as a consultative leader in the country's ongoing battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Speaking at the funeral of Dr Clarence Mini in Fourways on Sunday, Mkhize told mourners that Ramaphosa had been leading from the front during the crisis and was always ready to listen. 

"He wants to know the scientific basis of this issue. There are people concerned about whether there is science behind the decisions we are taking - there can only be one thing. There can only be science about it because we work with a whole group of medical experts who have various views, but at the end of the day we remain confident that the approaches we have taken are the best," Mkhize said. 

The minister's remarks come after experts advising the government voiced criticism over the implementation of certain lockdown regulations and the phased approach to easing the restrictions. 

READ MORE | 'We must unite and work together' - Mkhize speaking at funeral of Dr Clarence Mini

More than 5 000 schools in areas regarded as Covid-19 hotspots in parts of the country could remain closed if Cabinet approves a new proposal by the Department of Basic Education, according to the Sunday Times.

The publication said the proposal, which was discussed on Wednesday with the National Alliance of Independent Schools Associations (Naisa), will see schools in Buffalo City, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Mangaung and Nelson Mandela Bay being treated as if they are on Level 5.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was expected to give clarity on when schools would reopen at a briefing on Thursday after they were closed to halt the spread of Covid-19.

This briefing was later postponed to Monday. The Sunday Times reported that it had seen documentation which indicated that 157 123 matric pupils in hot-spot areas "be accommodated in Grade 12 special camps".

It was further outlined that schools in areas under Level 3 of the lockdown will see pupils from Grades 7 and 12 returning to school on 1 June, while pupils from Grade R to Grade 11 will return on a staggered basis. Children in the remaining grades will only return to school when Level 2 is introduced.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Schools in Covid-19 hotspot areas could remain closed - report


Cases update:

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

Late on Sunday night, positive cases worldwide were just under 4.7 million, while deaths were more than 314 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - were more than 1.48 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 89 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Governments around the world have been eyeing how to bring their populations out of lockdown, with several starting to ease their strict measures.

But at least six countries have had to reimpose restrictions in recent weeks, mainly due to a spike in new infections.

Many of these countries had also been under economic and political pressure to reopen. The renewed lockdowns - some of them total, others partial - are yet to show their effects. 

But in the coming weeks, they may well give crucial clues about which measures work best as the rest of the world reopens.

READ MORE | At least 6 countries reimposed lockdown measures as new coronavirus cases flared up again


Sense of smell most often diminishes by the third day of infection with the new coronavirus, and many patients also lose their sense of taste at the same time, a new study finds. The findings may help identify patients most likely to benefit from antiviral treatment, according to the researchers.

"The relationship between decreased sense of smell and the rest of the Covid-19 is something to be aware of.

If someone has a decreased sense of smell with Covid-19, we know they are within the first week of the disease course and there is still another week or two to expect," said principal investigator Dr Ahmad Sedaghat of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

His team examined characteristics and symptoms of 103 patients in Switzerland who were diagnosed with Covid-19 over six weeks. The patients were asked how many days they had Covid-19 symptoms and also about the timing and severity of lost or reduced sense of smell, along with other symptoms.

At least 61% of the patients reported reduced or lost sense of smell, and the average onset for this was 3.4 days, according to the study. The findings were published online recently in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Problems with sense of smell were more likely to occur in younger patients and women.

READ MORE | Smell diminishes by day 3 of Covid-19, study says

Two new studies are the latest in a series to show that a drug touted by US President Donald Trump as a potential game changer against Covid-19 doesn't work. Hydroxychloroquine reduces inflammation, pain and swelling, and is widely used to treat rheumatic diseases and malaria.

Laboratory tests of the drug against Covid-19 yielded promising results, but mounting evidence from clinical and observational studies suggest that it doesn't provide any meaningful benefits for Covid-19 patients.

In the first of the two new studies published May 14 in the BMJ, researchers in France assessed the effectiveness and safety of hydroxychloroquine compared with standard care in 181 adults hospitalised with pneumonia due to Covid-19 who needed oxygen.

Of those patients, 84 received hydroxychloroquine within 48 hours of admission and 97 did not. Treatment with the drug did not significantly reduce admission to intensive care or death within seven days, or the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome within 10 days.

The findings do not support the use of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised with Covid-19 pneumonia, said the team led by Matthieu Mahevas, from the department of internal medicine at Henri-Mondor Hospital, Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris.

READ MORE | Two more studies pour cold water on hydroxychloroquine as Covid-19 treatment

From 1 May 2020, it became mandatory for every person in the country to wear a mask in public. For hospital staff like doctors and nurses, however, wearing masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) has always been the norm even before the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in South Africa.

Medical staff have been donning and doffing - the practice of employees putting on and removing work-related protective gear, clothing, and uniforms – daily.

Having to manage infection control in hospitals is after all nothing new. They are not only treating Covid-19 cases, but are also attending to the ‘normal’ patients, who are placed in separate areas of the hospital, explains Professor Feroza Motara, head of the emergency department at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH).

“You have to wear the full PPE to protect yourself – which includes the helmet. There is a lot of donning - to put on (the clothing) and doffing (to take off the protective clothing) in between seeing patients,” says Motara.

“The full PPE is very hot and uncomfortable to wear when you wear it for long periods. It’s not heavy but it’s hot.”

Motara says she feels protected when she wears her PPE. “We have enough protective equipment. It will be a challenge if numbers go up significantly.”

READ MORE | What it's like: Heading up Charlotte Maxeke’s emergency department in the time of Covid-19

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.

READ MORE: Coronavirus 101 

Image credit: Getty Images
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