Coronavirus morning update: PPE corruption akin to 'murder', Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial halted

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WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 642 431.

According to the latest update, 15 168 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 569 935 recoveries.

So far, more than 3.8 million tests have been conducted, with 21 736 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The government procurement system must be overhauled, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) on Wednesday evening.

He equated corruption scandals and over-inflating of prices relating to personal protective equipment (PPE) to "murder".

Speaking on the country's economic recovery, the president did not mince words, saying SA had entered a "new era " for implementation, with a timeline of just two to three weeks for formulating an economic recovery plan.

"It is a new era of strengthening the state and getting things done. The timeline for implementing our economic recovery plan could maybe be two to three weeks to finalise it," he said.

The president said government was working on "actionable plans" in its drive for economic reforms, including a mass employment scheme.

Ramaphosa's address comes on the back of an annualised 51% quarterly contraction in SA's GDP on Tuesday.

However, the president said he expected the contraction in gross domestic product growth would be even deeper than anticipated.

"We entered the pandemic on a weak wicket, already downgraded by ratings agencies and growth-wise already getting into a recession.

READ MORE | PPE corruption akin to murder, says Ramaphosa as he calls for procurement overhaul

The ANC's parliamentary caucus will not support the call for an ad hoc committee to investigate Covid-19 corruption - instead it's calling on committees to strengthen their oversight role.

Party chief whip Pemmy Majodina said Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu's first report, for the period ending 31 July, reflected "substantive transgressions" and flouting of the Public Finance Management Act regulations.

Majodina said, starting this week, the caucus would begin engagements with Cabinet while ANC study groups would convene and prepare for thecalling of both portfolio and select committees to take up the issues raised in the AG's report.

Majodina said: "It is the committees of Parliament who have the powers to effect oversight and recommend. In this context we will not support the call for any ad hoc committee when the committees of Parliament have the mandate and authority to do the work.

"Caucus calls upon the committees to strengthen their oversight and bring to each House a report recommending action where there is prima facie evidence of corrupt practices having taken place."

READ MORE | ANC in Parliament won't support call for ad hoc committee to investigate Covid-19 corruption

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 Thursday night, positive cases worldwide were over 27.6 million, while deaths were close to 899 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 6.3 million, as well as the most deaths - nearly 190 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news

Coronavirus deaths in the United States topped 190 000 on Wednesday along with a spike in new cases in the US Midwest with states like Iowa and South Dakota emerging as the new hotspots in the past few weeks.

Iowa currently has one of the highest rates of infection in the nation, with 15% of tests last week coming back positive. Nearby South Dakota has a positive test rate of 19% and North Dakota is at 18%, according to a Reuters analysis.

The surge in Iowa and South Dakota is being linked to colleges reopening in Iowa and an annual motorcycle rally last month in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Kansas, Idaho and Missouri are also among the top 10 states for positive test rates.New coronavirus infections have fallen for seven weeks in a row for the United States with a death rate of about 6 100 per week from Covid-19 in the last month.

On a per capita basis, the United States ranks 12th in the world for the number of deaths, with 58 deaths per 100 000 people, and 11th in the world for cases, with 1 933 cases per 100 000 residents, according to a Reuters analysis.

READ MORE | Covid-19 wrap | US deaths surpass 190 000, Indonesia capital to reimpose social restrictions

Trials of one of the most promising, frontrunner vaccines against Covid-19 have been halted after one of its participants developed a “potentially unexplained illness”.

The vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca, and is currently being trialled in South Africa as well as in Brazil, the UK and the US.

A participant in the UK became ill with unknown symptoms.

In a statement to the publication STAT, AstraZeneca described the trial’s halt, as a “routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials.”

"In large trials illnesses will happen by chance but must be independently reviewed to check this carefully," AstraZeneca said.

READ MORE | Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine trial halted after unexplained illness

Tough new lockdown restrictions on social gatherings across England have been announced on Wednesday as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to control a resurgence of coronavirus infections.

From 14 September, gatherings will be limited to no more than six people with fines for those who fail to comply, Johnson is expected to announce.

The number of cases in the United Kingdom has begun to rise sharply again in recent days.

There were 2 460 new infections reported on Tuesday, 2 948 on Monday and 2 988 on Sunday - a sharp rise from levels of around 1 000 per day in August and attributed to high levels of transmission among young people.

READ MORE | Covid wrap | England limits gatherings to 6, halt in vaccine trial not a setback - UK minister

LATEST RESEARCH

A blood test upon arrival at a hospital which shows the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2 in the blood would be able to help act as a “triage” system to help identify those with severe Covid-19. When the virus is present in the blood, there is a higher chance of a more severe outcome.

Does this sound too good to be true? According to researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Danderyd Hospital, those without SARS-CoV-2 in blood samples may recover from Covid-19 more quickly. The study was recently published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The researchers took blood samples from Covid-19 patients admitted to the Department of Infectious Diseases, Danderyd Hospital, Sweden.

Those patients with detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 in their blood were seven times more likely to develop critical symptoms and eight times more likely to die within 28 days, the researchers revealed.

READ MORE | How coronavirus detected in the blood can predict more severe cases of Covid-19

Scientists are learning more about how Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, affects pregnant women and their unborn babies during and after pregnancy.

And based on a new, live systematic review by a team of international researchers, pregnant women with the disease may likely need intensive care and experience preterm birth.

The team, who compared the clinical features, risk factors, and outcomes of Covid-19 in pregnant and recently pregnant women with non-pregnant women of similar age, also found that being older, overweight, and having other medical conditions increase a pregnant woman’s risk of having more serious Covid-19.

The findings were published in BMJ. 

In their recent analysis, the team looked at 77 studies that reported on the rates, clinical features (symptoms, laboratory and X-ray findings), risk factors, and outcomes of 11 432 pregnant and recently pregnant women admitted to hospital and diagnosed as having suspected or confirmed Covid-19.

Among their findings was that, compared with non-pregnant women of reproductive age, pregnant and recently pregnant women with Covid-19 were less likely to report symptoms of fever and muscle pain (myalgia), but were more likely to need admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) and require ventilation.

READ MORE | Pregnancy and Covid-19: What the latest science says 

LATEST RESEARCH

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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