Coronavirus morning update: Mkhize's warning, the slumbering virus, and Russia's 'vacation'

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Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 1 380.

Gauteng is leading the pack with 645 cases followed by the Western Cape (326), KwaZulu-Natal (186), the Free State (76), North West (9), Northern Cape (7), Eastern Cape (15), Mpumalanga (12), and 14 in Limpopo.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in South Africa has risen to 1 380.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize revealed there were 27 new cases during a briefing on Wednesday evening.

Mkhize said 44 220 people have been tested, adding the majority were tested at private laboratories.

"Even though the number seems high, it is very low compared to the number of challenges faced by South Africa."

He raised concerns about the upcoming winter, saying some people might not know the difference between a common cold and Covid-19 symptoms.

Mkhize described the low number of infections as the "calm before the devastating storm" ahead of the upcoming flu season.

"This will flood our hospitals and clinics and create a fertile ground for the coronavirus to spread or to be masked in its presentation. This means with this small growth in numbers we may be experiencing the calm before the devastating storm.

"We need to be aware that there may not be many further warnings before the pounding descends…"

READ MORE | Increase of 27 coronavirus cases may be 'calm before a devastating storm' - Mkhize

At least 200 homeless people have managed to escape from the Caledonian Stadium in Pretoria where City of Tshwane law enforcement had placed them after the lockdown kicked off in the early hours of Friday morning. 

News24 can exclusively reveal that problematic conditions, coupled with an insufficient number of police officers at the stadium, led to a large number of people running away.

As the lockdown got underway, more than 2 000 homeless people were taken off the streets by City law enforcement and moved to the Caledonian Stadium in Arcadia.

The large number of people at the stadium caught officials off guard, and issues of overcrowding and food shortages started to emerge.

READ MORE | EXCLUSIVE: 200 Homeless people escape Tshwane temporary lockdown shelter due to bad conditions

Over the past few days, engineers and businessmen from around South Africa and the world have reached out with offers to assist or volunteer their services to find an emergency ventilator solution.

News24 reported over the weekend that UK-based company Penlon said it would not assist a group of local businessmen and engineers reproduce a nearly 40-year-old ventilator called the Nuffield 200.

Penlon told businessman Justin Corbett it would be “difficult” to share technical drawings of the Nuffield 200 because it was “currently marketing the device”.

Penlon told News24, however, it didn’t have the resources to send someone to hunt for old drawings as it was consumed with emergency production of ventilators for the UK market.

Since then emails and texts have flooded in to News24, many from engineers offering their assistance to Corbett’s group

READ MORE | Coronavirus crisis: Companies, engineers rally to SA’s emergency ventilator cause

As many South Africans are stripped of their salaries during the lockdown, some may be worrying unnecessarily about paying their home loan, credit card instalment or any other loans.  

If they took on these debts after August 2017, they can expect payouts from insurance policies they may not even be aware they had.

In South Africa, all credit products have to be covered by credit insurance – which will settle outstanding debt if you die or are permanently disabled.

But in August 2017, new credit insurance regulations were adopted which extended the terms: since then your instalments will also be covered for up to 12 months if you become unemployed or unable to earn an income, not necessarily due to illness. Even if you aren't fired, but put on unpaid leave, you should be covered.

READ MORE | Lost your salary in lockdown? If you took on debt after 2017, your payments may be covered


Cases update:

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

Positive cases worldwide are now more than 937 000, while deaths are more than 47 000.

The United States has more than 200 000 cases, while Spain and Italy have more than 100 000 each.

Italy has more than 13 000 deaths, while Spain has more than 9 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Russian President Vladimir Putin told all of Russia they could have a week-long paid vacation. Two days later, the Kremlin had to clarify people were meant to be staying home, and those working from home should continue to do so.

Putin made his announcement on March 25. It was a precautionary measure to stop the coronavirus from spreading. But afterward, "the streets of Moscow and other cities filled with people enjoying their time off," according to The New York Times.

The holiday was meant to run from March 28 to April 5, and workers were guaranteed their salaries, The Guardian reported.

Two days after Putin's announcement, on an unplanned conference call with the media, the Kremlin interceded and clarified that people were meant to be staying home.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Confusion in Russia after Putin announces a nationwide vacation

Britain said on Wednesday it would soon begin testing 25 000 people daily for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) as criticism of the government grew over low numbers of testing compared to other countries.

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick told Sky TV that it was targeting 25 000 daily tests by "mid-April", after the latest figures revealed the UK death toll was almost 1 800.

The victims included a 13-year-old boy, thought to be the country's youngest victim.

"We think within days we'll be able to go from our present capacity, as I say, of 12 750, to 15 000," said Jenrick.

READ MORE | Coronavirus numbers will get worse 'before they get better' - UK promises more testing amid criticism

Spanish citizens are being asked to donate their snorkeling masks to help sick coronavirus patients.

On Monday, police in Madrid put a call out for full-face snorkeling masks on Twitter.

Such masks can be attached to a ventilator with a 3D-printed valve, splitting a single ventilator between multiple patients.

It's a method that was developed by engineers in Italy, who have faced a similar shortage of ventilators due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to AFP. Italy and Spain are the two countries which, as of March 31, have the highest death tolls in the world from the virus.

Other countries have gone on to adopt the masks as well.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Spanish police ask for snorkel mask donations to build makeshift ventilators


The repercussions of the new coronavirus are becoming more severe worldwide and scientists are working hard to understand exactly how this virus works and where it originated.

Even though experts don’t have all the answers yet, they now understand how the virus is structured and that it is zoonotic (spread from animals to humans). They know enough to put the conspiracy theory that it was designed in a lab to rest.

A new study suggests an interesting scenario, which is that that the virus may have been circulating harmlessly in humans all along.

"It is possible that a progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 jumped into humans, acquiring [new genomic features] through adaptation during undetected human-to-human transmission," the research team wrote in the study, published in the journal Nature.

READ MORE | Study suggests that coronavirus might have been slumbering in humans for years

A small study out of China bolsters the notion that transfusing the antibody-enriched blood of people who've survived the new coronavirus could help patients still fighting for their lives against the disease.

The study of five critically ill patients from near the initial epicentre of the novel coronavirus pandemic found that all five patients survived Covid-19 following the transfusion.

If the findings are replicated in larger trials, widespread use of the treatment "could help change the course of this pandemic," wrote Drs John Roback and Jeannette Guarner of Emory Medical Laboratories, affiliated with Emory University in Atlanta.

Roback and Guarner wrote an editorial accompanying the new Chinese study, which was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

READ MORE | More evidence that coronavirus survivors' blood could help very ill patients

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections 

• 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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