Coronavirus morning update: 'Fight the second pandemic', and what Level 1 may look like

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 644 438.

According to the latest update, 15 265 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 573 003 recoveries.

So far, a total of more than 3.86 million tests have been conducted, with 20 555 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has pleaded with President Cyril Ramaphosa to fight the second pandemic - unemployment - by opening up all sectors of the economy and allowing for the resumption of international travel.

On Friday, the Western Cape government will discuss the further opening of the economy and adopt an official position to present to Ramaphosa during the next round of consultations.

"We must open up all sectors of the economy and allow for international travel in line with clear health guidelines and in acknowledgement of individual responsibility.

"We must treat our residents as responsible partners in our continued efforts to keep Covid-19 on the decline," Winde said in a statement of Thursday.

He said by opening up all sectors they could prevent the deadly second pandemic of joblessness, which will hit vulnerable communities the hardest.

"All indicators confirm that the Western Cape has moved into the recovery phase of its pandemic.

"We need to ensure that we keep up all the behaviour changes we have learnt over the last five months," added Winde.

READ MORE | Lockdown: Western Cape calls for resumption of international travel, opening of economy

Alert Level 1 could be coming soon, President Cyril Ramaphosa suggested on Wednesday, telling editors to "watch this space next week".

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has also suggested that debate is ongoing about the move to less onerous restrictions on citizens, as ongoing monitoring shows no new surge in infections, and no reason for concern about the readiness of the health system to deal with cases of Covid-19.

There is no official work on just what Level 1 will look like, with Ramaphosa saying the government is considering input from various parts of society, including religious leaders who would like to see worship in groups of more than 50.

But widespread and ongoing consultation and lobbying has yielded some hints on what may be in store.

Under the original risk-adjusted strategy proposal, the move from Level 2 to Level 1 would have been significant for the construction industry, which would have been allowed to restart all projects, and for consumers in a number of ways. It would have seen sit-down meals allowed at restaurants for the first time, and would have opened up accommodation for pure leisure. It was also due to allow haircare and other personal services to operate again, and to fully open up retail and e-commerce.

Thanks to the gradual relaxation of restrictions during levels 2 and 3, though, not much remains to be unbanned, beyond moving around at night for no good reason and nightclubs.

READ MORE | Alert Level 1 could be coming next week. Here’s what may change – and what won’t

Discovery Health says nearly one in four South Africans – one third of adults – have likely been infected with the coronavirus, based on an actuarial analysis of confirmed infections, recorded deaths, and the number of excess deaths recorded during the pandemic.

The health insurer’s actuarial "extrapolation” of the official infection rates and death toll, as well as the excess deaths reported by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) arrived at a likely total average infection rate for the population of 22% – or 13.1 million people.

The official death toll reached 15,168 on Wednesday, but given the high number of excess deaths in the country, Discovery estimates that the real number of Covid-19 deaths are around 40,000. It expects 11,000 more people to die before the end of the year.

This is line with the new “best case” scenario of the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA), which sees another 12,000 deaths before the end of 2020.

Government’s swift action to implement a lockdown on 27 March probably saved 16,000 lives this year, Discovery reckons.

“There is no doubt that our early-onset lockdown delayed the country’s Covid-19 peak, gave us time to learn from globally-emergent treatment advances and availed capacity within our healthcare system to deal with the pandemic,” Ryan Noach, CEO of Discovery Health, said at a briefing on Thursday.

READ MORE | A third of adult South Africans have been infected with Covid-19, Discovery estimates

With 10 September being World Suicide Prevention Day, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) says it has seen a huge increase in the number of calls to its helpline since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The day is observed to raise awareness about suicide.

According to the organisation, the majority of the callers are female - either calling for themselves or family members needing help.

Sadag says it has received 55 000 calls to the suicide helpline since January 2020, with many people not aware of how they can get help or where they can go.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 800 000 people take their own life each year, which is one person every 40 seconds.

According to the University of Johannesburg's director for the Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development, Professor Alban Burke, the notion that "depressed" people often commit suicide is not 100% correct.

Burke says not everyone commits suicide because of depression.

"Suicide is a system or is a consequence of depression, but it's not the only cause of suicide. I think one of the biggest problems with Covid-19 and the lockdown [is] people have time to think and reflect. And I think, in this time, when you have time to reflect, people tend to think of all their failures and mistakes, and guilt and other things come up.

"Being isolated, not having a lot of people around you to share these kinds of things, I think the problem becomes bigger in your head, and then it reaches a critical point, which may then result in suicide," Burke told News24.

READ MORE | World Suicide Prevention Day: Covid-19, lockdown led to an increase in calls to SA's helplines - Sadag

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 Friday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 27.98 million, while deaths were more than 894 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 6.39 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 191 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Six months after the coronavirus hit Bergamo, Lombardy's worst-hit province, which was Italy's worst hit region, nearly half of the survivors still haven't recovered, and are dealing with a range of problems.

Pope John XXIII Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Serena Venturelli, who is one of the doctors working on a study of Covid-19's long term effects, told The Washington Post, "Almost half of the patients say no," when asked if they were cured.

Bergamo is the city where a harrowing video was released in March showing an overwhelmed ICU dealing with a wave of patients.

At one point, so much oxygen was needed for 92 people on ventilators that oxygen had to be piped in using an emergency tank, according to The Post.

It had about 6 000 Covid-19 deaths, filling 10 pages of a local newspaper, according to ABC News.

At another point, the Italian military had to drive bodies to different provinces, because Bergamo's morgues were overflowing.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Half of the survivors from one of Italy's epicentres haven't recovered six months on

Germans are more afraid of the policies of US President Donald Trump than of the coronavirus which has wreaked havoc on Europe's biggest economy, an annual survey of German attitudes showed on Thursday.

Fears that Trump's policies would make the world a more dangerous place eclipsed economic worries, with 53% of those asked putting him top of their list, according to the survey conducted in June and July for the R+V Insurance Group.

Rising living costs, the economic situation and the cost to taxpayers of European Union debt came second, third and fourth for traditionally cautious Germans.

The coronavirus took 17th spot and only around a third of those asked said they were concerned that they or someone they knew well would get Covid-19.

Germany has kept the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths relatively low compared with some of its European neighbours, but new infections are rising again.

The survey did not give details on which aspects of Trump's policies worried Germans but R+V quoted political scientist Manfred Schmidt of the Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg as blaming his foreign policy.

READ MORE | Germans fear Trump more than coronavirus, survey shows

In the age of coronavirus, disputes over mask wearing have become as commonplace as the face coverings themselves. But it's not every day that a flight is canceled altogether because of it.

Canadian airline WestJet said it scrapped a Tuesday flight from Calgary to Toronto after a family wouldn't obey a rule that all passengers over 2 years old must wear masks, the CBC reports. The details of the dispute are rather fuzzy, with WestJet and Safwan Choudhry, the passenger involved, offering contradicting accounts of what happened.

Choudhry, who was flying with his wife and two daughters — aged 19 months and 3 years — said his family followed all the regulations, according to the CBC. Choudhry told the outlet that airline staff tried to force his 19-month-old to put on a mask, even though she was under the cutoff for mask wearing on Canadian flights.

"It started with my toddler and once we got a mask on her, they turned to my 19-month-old infant and said 'every person on the plane has to wear a mask or the plane can't take off,'" he told the CBC.

Choudhry said he and his wife tried unsuccessfully to get a mask on the infant, who cried and eventually vomited. It was then that a flight attendant told Choudhry that the police would be called and that he and his family would need to get off the plane, Choudhry told the CBC.

Police arrived and insisted that the child wear a mask or the family would need to leave the plane, Choudhry said. Shortly thereafter, the flight's captain announced that WestJet would be evacuating the flight for security and safety reasons.

READ MORE | A Canadian airline cancelled a flight after disputes over toddler mask rules

LATEST RESEARCH

The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, typically lingers in public spaces. And while strict non-pharmaceutical interventions (‎NPIs)‎, such as physical distancing and good hand hygiene, can be highly effective in reducing transmission, they have their limits.

Since schools have reopened, along with restaurants and office buildings and other indoor spaces, good ventilation, air filtration and humidity levels are key to reducing the spread of the virus.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines published in July, a “well-maintained and operated system can reduce the spread of the virus in indoor spaces by increasing the rate of air change, reducing recirculation of air, and increasing the use of outdoor air”.

The general purpose of ventilation in buildings, the organisation adds, is to provide healthy air (and remove stale air) for breathing, in other words, to maintain the quality of air in that space.

A number of studies have shown that airborne transmission of the virus can effectively take place within confined spaces, as the tiny virus particles linger in the air.

If you enter a room or building and smell stuffy air, take it as a sign that the carbon dioxide concentration is high, and the ventilation is poor, Qingyan Chen, a mechanical engineering professor at Purdue University, told Business Insider US.

READ MORE | Four ways to avoid catching the Covid-19 virus indoors

While children get off quite lightly from Covid-19, with a low mortality rate, doctors and researchers have noticed that the virus might have sparked a rare new disease.

A hyperinflammatory condition linked to the coronavirus has been identified and is being studied by researchers. It is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). The disease is quite dangerous and could even be lethal.

"The definition of [MIS-C] across the organisations is based on six principle elements: paediatric age, persistence of fever, presence of laboratory markers of inflammation, manifestation of signs or symptoms of organ dysfunction, lacking an alternative diagnosis, and a temporal relation to Covid-19 infection or exposure," write the authors of a review of studies dealing with the mysterious disease.

The new disease was first reported in April among UK patients, and other countries have since then also observed MIS-C in young Covid-19 patients. It's quite difficult to differentiate it from Kawasaki's Disease (KD) and toxic shock syndrome (TSS) due to similar symptoms, but it remains a separate disease.

"While MIS-C has overlapping features with KD and TSS, the inflammatory storm observed in MIS-C is much more intense.

"Another important difference to highlight between KD and MIS-C is that approximately 5% of children with Kawasaki's disease presented with cardiovascular collapse. Conversely, 60.2% of children with MIS-C presented with shock."

READ MORE | What you should know about a new childhood disease linked to 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.

Image credit: Getty Images

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