Coronavirus morning update: Pensioner allegedly steals R4.7m in Covid money, and schools latest

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 627 041.

According to the latest update, 14 149 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 540 923 recoveries.

So far, a total of 3.69 million tests have been conducted, with 18 849 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

A 62-year-old pensioner from Hammanskraal scored a sizeable extra pension of R4.7 million by allegedly stealing the money from the UIF's Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS).

The Hawks Serious Corruption Investigation unit arrested him in Hammanskraal on Sunday for alleged fraud and theft. This brings the number of arrested people linked to UIF TERS fraud to 14, said Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.

Some of the suspects were out on bail, while the 62-year-old pensioner will be charged with fraud, and alternatively with theft and money laundering.

The pensioner was arrested after he allegedly failed to disclose that he became an instant millionaire with money that was meant to remunerate employees of a company that will be disclosed in court papers.

"It is understood the suspect worked for the same company and allegedly used the same reference number from his previous employers to apply for his UIF payout. It was later found after numerous enquiries by the company that the money was actually paid, but was redirected to the suspect's account," Mulaudzi said.

A case was registered and almost R4.6 million has already been recovered. He allegedly used almost R100 000 on himself.

READ MORE | Tata ma chance: Pensioner arrested for allegedly stealing R4.7m Covid-19 relief money

The basic education department says it will use the next two weeks to monitor where there is a need to employ additional teachers, as all grades have now returned to schools.

From Monday, grades 5 and 8, as well grades 4 and 5 at schools for pupils with severe intellectual disabilities, returned to the classroom.

Some grades returned for the first time since schools had to shut its doors in March due to Covid-19.

Grade 7s and 12s returned from 8 June, but went on another break from 27 July, following concerns over the spike of cases.

But concerns remained, with unions like the National Professional National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), saying schools were still experiencing challenges with teachers and the replacements of those who have since had to leave the system due to comorbidities and others working from home.

READ MORE | Schools reopening: Need for more teachers will be clear after two weeks, says Motshekga

KwaZulu-Natal police have warned residents that contravening Covid-19 regulations will land you in hot water, this after 44 people were arrested over the weekend at a gathering in Winterton - making for an expensive party as fines were handed out.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker on Monday said residents should "refrain from hosting gatherings that are in contravention of the Disaster Management Act".

He said on Saturday night, Winterton police, the SA National Defence Force, Public Order Police, and the Okhahlamba Traffic Department conducted an intelligence-driven operation in the Winterton CBD, "following information of a party that was taking place".

"Forty-four people were arrested and received fines of R500 each. A case for convening a gathering in contravention of the Disaster Management Act was opened against the convenor of the bash, who was also arrested. Law enforcement agencies also impounded 23 vehicles that were used by the culprits."

KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula welcomed the continued clampdown on lawlessness.

READ MORE | Cops crash lockdown party: 44 arrested, fined R500 each in KwaZulu-Natal

Three of South Africa’s leading private pathology labs are now offering Covid-19 antibody tests - after a lengthy approval delay by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

The recently-approved antibody tests are significantly cheaper than the gold-standard of reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, which tests for active infections.

And even though a test may satiate some curiosity of those who think they may have contracted the virus at some point and been asymptomatic, some medical experts have said that they aren’t yet worth the money.

That’s because the antibody tests cannot necessarily detect active cases of Covid-19 like the PCR tests can. Instead, pathology lab Ampath says that a positive antibody test result means that it is "very likely" that the patient has or had Covid-19, and developed an immune response.

The relevance of having once contracted Covid-19 is controversial. Some have argued that the antibody tests are a necessary weapon in the fight against the coronavirus - particularly when it comes to preparing for new outbreaks, contact tracing, and identifying vulnerable people ahead of a potential second wave.

READ MORE | You can now get a Covid-19 antibody test for R230, with results in 24 hours

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 Monday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 25.32 million, while deaths were almost 848 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 6.02 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 182 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

As schools start making preparations to welcome back students amid the coronavirus pandemic, a growing number of parents are taking matters into their own hands and are choosing to homeschool instead.

Homeschooling in the UK has long been regarded as unconventional until now. Health uncertainties that have arisen around the reopening of UK schools this week have left many parents feeling like there's no other choice.

"I kind of feel pushed into this decision. It's not that I don't want my child to go to school, I'm just worried about the risk of allowing them to return," Eleanor, a mother of an 11-year-old, told Business Insider.

Eleanor, who is from the northwest town of Milton Keynes, has asthma and lives with her 90-year-old mother-in-law. She has been leaving her house as little as possible because she is still frightened of catching the disease.

"It feels like we have this little protective bubble which has been running smoothly up until now, and now there's this risk of our son bringing something back. If the reopening of schools and the communication by the government would have been better, perhaps I wouldn't feel this way," she added.

READ MORE | Covid-19: UK parents take to homeschooling as answer to coronavirus fears

LATEST RESEARCH

The moment you're admitted to the ICU because of Covid-19, your chances of dying increase significantly.

But what if doctors could predict how severely a patient would be affected by the virus if they ended up in the ICU?

A new study in Critical Care Explorations identified some important physiological protein biomarkers that can predict the likelihood of Covid-19 causing the death of an ICU patient.

Researchers collected blood samples from ICU patients in the London Health Sciences Centre who were infected with the coronavirus and compared them to those of uninfected individuals.

They then used proteomics to determine who was more likely to succumb to Covid-19. Proteomics is the study of proteins in cells, their identification and how they interact with biological systems.

"Protection and/or restoration of the endothelial glycocalyx, as well as platelet adhesion inhibitors, may improve microvascular functioning during Covid-19," write the authors.

"Although the more common inflammatory and thrombotic proteins contributing to Covid-19 pathophysiology have been identified, a plethora of protein mediators have yet to be investigated and may hold critically important information to improve Covid-19 outcomes."

READ MORE | Scientists identify biomarkers which could predict severity of Covid-19 in infected patients in ICU

The coronavirus might have spread through a block of flats in China by means of the sewerage system, according to a new study.

Aerosol transmission of the coronavirus has been well-documented, including through faecal matter. Earlier studies found that coronavirus particles in a person’s stool can be propelled into the air through aerosol droplets when flushing, and could thereby contribute to Covid-19 transmission.

But according to a research analysis published in Environment International, there is evidence that it can even move through a building's sewerage system between different apartments, without contact transmission.

"For many pathogens, transmission is multi-modal, and the contribution of the aerosol route may rely on environmental conditions, proximity of susceptible people, human behaviour, and other factors," write the researchers.

In February, China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention found SARS-CoV-2 on bathroom surfaces in an apartment that had been standing empty for a long time. Situated on the 16th floor of an apartment block, it was right above another apartment where five people who had been infected with Covid-19 lived.

"The possibility of aerosol transport through sewage pipes after flushing the toilet at the 15th-floor restroom was confirmed by an onsite tracer simulation experiment showing that aerosols were found in the restroom of apartments on the 25th floor (two cases confirmed on 1 February) and 27th floor (two cases confirmed on 6 and 13 February, respectively) of the building."

This showed a similar pattern to the Amoy Gardens SARS outbreak in 2003 in Hong Kong, which was the epicentre of the then pandemic where 200 people in a block of flats appeared to become infected almost overnight. According to CNN, one person's intense diarrhoea, and shoddy piping, caused the rapid spread.

The researchers, however, noted that it can't be ruled out that the virus might have moved through the elevators in the Covid-19 case.

READ MORE | Coronavirus transmission: Another look at the role toilets play in the spread of the virus

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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