Coronavirus morning update: SA cases top 200, concern in Free State, but better news from China

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 202, after the health minister confirmed 52 new cases.

The Free State had its first confirmed cases, after Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

The province with the most positive cases is Gauteng with 109.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Five people who attended a church gathering in the Free State have tested positive for the coronavirus and now the province's Department of Health is preparing to test up to 600 people who may have been in contact with the congregants.  

The five are tourists - two from Texas in the United States, two from Israel and one from France - who arrived in South Africa between 9 and 11 March to attend the church gathering, which had over 200 people.

After showing symptoms, the travellers were tested and quarantined at the bed and breakfast they were staying at.

After their results proved to be positive, the staff at the BnB were all quarantined, said Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize.

"Some of them will have to be tested immediately and others watched, depending on the assessment of the tracing team," Mkhize said. 

A contact tracing programme had been activated to track the congregants who attended the church gathering because they were at high risk.

READ MORE |Coronavirus: Search on for Free State church congregants exposed to Covid-19-positive tourists

The Gauteng Department of Health obtained a court order to stop a church in Katlehong from convening a church service.

The church now cannot hold a church service which is not in accordance with the gazetted regulations released by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) this week.

"The concerns surrounding the church gathering was brought to the attention of the department by the community where the church is based," spokesperson Kwara Kekana said on Friday. 

"Mass gatherings expose people to great risk. The measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa have been put in place to help contain and prevent the further spread of Covid-19," Kekana added.

READ MORE | Coronavirus: Church barred from holding service after Gauteng health dept gets court interdict

The virus which causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19), has been spreading rapidly globally, putting pressure on vaccine and drug developers to invent new products to stop infections and save lives.

The desperate need for a vaccine to curb the respiratory infection is driving research and development, with more than 24 companies estimated to be in the race. Vaccines are entering human clinical trials much faster than ever before. 

Apart from the life-saving impact of an effective Covid-19 virus vaccine, these new technologies and approaches are expected to also inform future scientific research on badly needed vaccines for HIV and tuberculosis. 

READ MORE | The new coronavirus: The urgent, but long race for a vaccine

South Africans must stop travelling unnecessarily, Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula warned on Friday.

"This moving from Soweto to see your friend in Hillbrow must stop. Stay where you are and socialise in your environment. We must restrict movement," he said at a briefing on progress with the implementation of coronavirus (Covid-19) regulations in the civil aviation sector.

He said South African airports have not yet been closed, as that would be a decision for President Cyril Ramaphosa to take. Ramaphosa recently issued an immediate travel ban on people from high-risk countries.

Mbalula did warn, though, that nothing would stop the president from stepping up the coronavirus-related regulations to include a total ban on airlines originating from high-risk countries.

READ MORE | Stop unnecessary movement or face stricter travel rules, warns Mbalula

South Africans who use trains, the cheapest form of public transport in the country, say they fear the spread of the novel coronavirus while travelling to and from work - often in overcrowded and unhygienic carriages - daily.

When News24 visited Stretford train station in Orange Farm on Friday there was no hand sanitiser available.

Employees sat in offices and didn't check whether commuters had valid tickets or not.

Some passengers who spoke to News24, pleaded with the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) to educate commuters about the virus, especially to those who don't realise that their behaviour can cause more harm.

Commuter Mike Mudau said he carried masks with him.

"Some of us have wear hand gloves and masks. Our trains are overcrowded and people are squeezing each other. Some don't cover their mouths whenever they cough or sneeze.

"This unhygienic behaviour has been continuing way before the coronavirus was known. I was hurt when some passengers asked me why I was wearing gloves and a mask because if it is my time of die, I will die regardless.

"They claimed that they are not afraid of coronavirus and made me feel like a fool for protecting myself from being infected," Mudau said.

READ MORE | Coronavirus in SA: Train commuters fear the spread of the virus in overcrowded carriages

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.

Positive cases worldwide are now more than 255 000, while deaths are more than 11 000.

Seven countries, China, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, United States and France all have more than 10 000 cases.

Italy has the most deaths worldwide, with more than 4 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

China on Friday reported no new local cases of the deadly coronavirus for a second straight day, but its progress against the disease was confronted by another increase in imported infections.

The country's drop in cases offers a ray of hope for the rest of the world as a slew of other nations go into lockdown in an effort to emulate China's tactic against the disease.

The number of deaths in China has also slowed dramatically, with the National Health Commission reporting only three new fatalities, the lowest daily increase since it started publishing figures in January.

In a grim milestone showing how the crisis has moved from Asia to Europe, China's death toll was overtaken by Italy.

READ MORE | China reports no new local virus cases for second day

The UK's bars, restaurants, gyms, nightclubs, leisure centres, and cinemas will all be ordered to close down tonight following a surge of coronavirus cases across Britain.

Many Brits had ignored official government advice to avoid socialising and stay at home, leading Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order the restrictions on Friday.

"We need to push down further on this curve," Johnson told a press conference on Friday afternoon.

"Following agreement between all the four nations of the United Kingdom, all the devolved administrations, we will be telling cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow...

"We're also telling nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, gyms, and leisure centres to close on the same timescale."

READ MORE | The UK's pubs, restaurants, gyms and cinemas have been ordered to close down as the coronavirus surges across Britain

LATEST RESEARCH

Diarrhoea and other digestive symptoms are the main complaint in nearly half of coronavirus patients, Chinese researchers report.

Most patients with the coronavirus have respiratory symptoms, but these findings from the early stages of the outbreak show that digestive problems are prevalent in many patients with the Covid-19 virus.

"Clinicians must bear in mind that digestive symptoms, such as diarrhoea, may be a presenting feature of Covid-19, and that the index of suspicion may need to be raised earlier in these cases rather than waiting for respiratory symptoms to emerge," wrote the investigators from the Wuhan Medical Treatment Expert Group for Covid-19.

The researchers analysed data from 204 Covid-19 patients, average age nearly 55, who were admitted to three hospitals in the Hubei province between 18 January and 28 February, 2020. The average time from symptom onset to hospital admission was 8.1 days.

READ MORE | Almost half of coronavirus patients have digestive symptoms

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections 

• Maintain social 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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