Coronavirus morning update: Booze ban creating 'incredible' trade risks, latest on vaccines

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 566 109.

According to the latest update, 10 751 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 426 125 recoveries.

So far, a total of more than 3.27 million tests have been conducted, with 11 483 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Serious trade imbalances between South Africa and the European Union (EU) are creating unintended consequences due to the continued prohibition on the sale of alcohol in SA, Sibani Mngadi, spokesperson for the SA alcohol industry, has warned.

South Africa is the prime export destination for European spirits in Africa, with exports amounting to 255 million euros in 2019.

An Economic Partnership Agreement was signed between SA and the EU in 2016. It allows for the export of 110 million litres of South African wines duty-free into the EU region. In return, the EU exports mainly spirit products into Southern Africa. This trade is now constrained due to the extended ban on alcohol sales in SA. The agreement contributes R5.7 billion in net export earnings for SA on alcohol per year.

The South African alcohol industry, including the National Liquor Traders Council, the South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA), the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA), Vinpro, the National Liquor Traders Council, as well as manufacturers, raised the alarm on Tuesday regarding concerns expressed by the European spirits industry regarding these trade imbalances.

"It is important for the government to consider the overall effect of the ban when deciding on the next steps in response to Covid-19 to avoid prejudicing important trade partnership [with the EU]," Mngadi said on Tuesday.

He added: "With progress being made in the health response to the pandemic, it is critical for the government to further limit the negative impact of the ban in the local economy and on our international obligations as a country. We are calling for government to provide clarity in terms of timing of lifting the ban."

His comments come against the backdrop of an alarm raised from withing the EU itself, warning that the continued coronavirus ban on the sale of alcohol products in South Africa is creating "incredible risks" between the country and its biggest trade partner, the European Union.

READ MORE | Continued ban on alcohol sales creating 'incredible risks' for SA, EU trade

In what is probably the most devastating blow for the Eastern Cape in their fight against the pandemic, 466 people died of Covid-19 in just nine days.

The announcement was made by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane during a weekly Covid-19 press briefing in Bhisho on Tuesday.

The upsurge in the fatalities was caused by underlying diseases and old age, said Mabuyane.

The comorbidities that made the 466 vulnerable to Covid-19 include diabetes, hypertension, HIV, asthma, cardiac diseases, cancer and obesity, said Mabuyane.

READ MORE | Covid-19 claims 466 lives in just 9 days in the Eastern Cape

The Department of Basic Education issued a warning to individuals and groups who were threatening to disrupt schools, as Grade 7s returned to class on Tuesday.

Grade 7s returned following a four-week break announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to help curb Covid-19 infections.

"The department has become aware of the attempts made by some members of the School Governing Bodies (SGBs) around the country to close schools and disrupt learning," the department said in a statement.

According to the department, in Gauteng, SGB members disrupted 38 schools in Daveyton/Etwatwa, 37 schools in Tsakane, and eight schools in KwaThema on Thursday.

READ MORE | Education dept issues warning to those threatening to shut down schools

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.

Late on Tuesday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 20.17 million, while deaths were more than 738 000

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 5.13 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 164 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

The World Health Organisation said any WHO stamp of approval on a Covid-19 vaccine candidate would require a rigorous safety data review, after Russia announced on Tuesday it had approved a vaccine.

In a stunning move on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia had become the first country to approve a vaccine offering "sustainable immunity" against the new coronavirus.

"We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO pre-qualification of the vaccine," the United Nations health agency's spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva at an online press briefing.

"Pre-qualification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all the required safety and efficacy data."

READ MORE | Covid-19: WHO wants to review safety data of Russia's vaccine

President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that his government had approved the world's first coronavirus vaccine for mass inoculation, amid widespread doubts over its safety and efficacy.

Despite widespread concerns that the vaccine, created by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, has not undergone phase-3 trials, Putin said the vaccine works effectively, develops stable immunity, and has gone through all the necessary tests.

Phase-3 trials are considered important to guarantee the safety of a vaccine, and usually help indicate potential side effects.

Putin added that one of his daughters has already received the vaccination, and said she has been feeling well after suffering a fever for a couple of days.

READ MORE | 'It's risky': Russians are divided about its poorly-tested new Covid-19 vaccine

Although none of the coronavirus vaccines under development has proved its efficacy yet in clinical trials, at least 5.7 billion doses have been pre-ordered around the world.

First shipments of a Covid-19 vaccine created by Western laboratories have often been snapped up by the United States.

Five vaccines - three Western and two Chinese - are in Phase 3 efficacy trials involving thousands of people.

In a surprise announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Tuesday that a vaccine dubbed "Sputnik V" - after the Soviet satellite - conferred "sustainable immunity" against the novel coronavirus.

As research laboratories around the world race to develop a vaccine, manufacturers have received financing to help them prepare to have millions of doses ready to administer in 2021 or even before the end of the yea

READ MORE | Global pre-orders of Covid-19 vaccines top five billion

LATEST RESEARCH

As Covid-19 cases continue to surge worldwide, researchers are racing to develop a vaccine. In the latest developments, a Russian health care regulator has become the first globally to approve a vaccine against Covid-19, President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday.

“As far as I know, a vaccine against a new coronavirus infection has been registered this morning, for the first time in the world,” he said at a meeting with members of the government, RIA Novosti reported.

Medical workers and teachers would be the first to be vaccinated, according to Russia’s health minister, Mikhail Murashko.

However, the development has been met with international scepticism as the vaccine has yet to complete clinical trials. Here’s what we know about the vaccine so far.

READ MORE | Russia's Covid-19 vaccine: What you need to know

“How do I make my workplace or school Covid-19 free after someone tests positive?”

“Should I disinfect my groceries?”

“Should my school use disinfection tunnels? What should I disinfect after my child returns from school?”

“Must I wipe my shoes and wash my clothes after going outside?”

“What should I wipe down when I get in a taxi?”

Fear of contracting Covid-19 has been exploited by companies marketing unnecessary and even dangerous disinfection methods for surfaces, buildings, and humans.

Even government departments and officials have implemented spraying of outdoor spaces such as in taxi ranks and open streets. This display, often involving suited sprayers, has been called "hygiene theatre’’, and can be alarming.

At best, these systems are unnecessary and expensive; at worst they are harmful to human health, the ecosystem and environment, and are ineffective in Covid-19 control.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Practical guidance on disinfecting

“Should I ask for a Covid-19 antibody test?”

“What is the difference between an antibody test and a PCR test?”

“Should I have a rapid diagnostic test?”

“If I have antibodies, does that mean I am safe from getting Covid-19 again, and do I still need to wear a mask, socially distance and take other precautions against Covid-19?”

South Africa has seen a flurry of controversies about the possible role and place for antibody tests - also referred to as ‘serology’ tests - in managing Covid-19. Some have argued that antibody tests are the missing weapon, while others have countered that they provide little to no real-time value or are a ‘blunt stick’, offering false hope.

READ MORE | Testing for Covid-19? All you need to know about antibody tests

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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