Coronavirus morning update: WC govt calls for economy to open up further, and PPE shortage concerns

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WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 633 015.

According to the latest update, 14 563 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 554 887 recoveries.

So far, more than 3.7 million tests have been conducted, with 20 380 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

The Western Cape government wants to "open up the economy even further" – after latest statistics show "the epidemic is declining" in the province.

And in parts of the Western Cape, some of the population may now have immunity against contracting Covid-19, the illness which stems from the coronavirus.

These were announced at Premier Alan Winde's weekly "digicon" online press conference on Thursday.

"We can't say with any certainty we have reached herd immunity," reported Professor Mary-Ann Davies, Director at the Centre for Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology and Research at the University of Cape Town.

But, in some pockets, health authorities had detected "a high proportion" of people who were likely to have developed immunity against Covid-19.

Initial antibody testing, by the province, indicated "especially in poorer communities, a relatively high proportion have been exposed to an infected person with Covid-19".

READ MORE | Western Cape again pushes for further opening of economy as Covid-19 infections drop

Against the backdrop of "rampant looting" in the procurement of personal protectiv eequipment (PPE), Health Minister Zweli Mkhize admitted there were some "concerns" with the availability of adequate PPE for medical personnel.

He was answering questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday, hours after the Auditor-General made damning findings about Covid-19 related procurement.

DA MP Siviwe Gwarube said Mkhize was "aware that the country is outraged by the rampant looting that has taken place across the country by those who are politically connected to the governing party".

"Hayi!" an MP, presumably from the governing party, said.

"He is also aware that the direct result of this theft has led to many healthcare workers not receiving adequate PPE on time or being given poor quality equipment while serving on the front lines of this pandemic," said Gwarube.

"Indeed, this kind of corruption has not been victimless. Those who suffered are the people of this country and the dedicated healthcare workers who deserve so much more from their government," she added.

READ MORE | Amid 'rampant looting' in PPE procurement, Mkhize admits 'concerns' about PPE shortages for medics

A new poll by market research firm Ipsos surveyed people across the world on their attitudes toward Covid-19 vaccines, and the results reveal stark national differences when it comes to hopes that a vaccine will be available soon and willingness to get vaccinated.

According to the survey, 64% of South Africans would agree to getting a vaccine should it be available soon.

As the coronavirus pandemic roils the globe, many see a vaccine as the world's chance to return to something more closely resembling normal.

Currently, World Health Organization is tracking over 170 vaccine candidates, with 9 candidates currently in Phase 3 of clinical trials. Normally, vaccines take years to develop, but scientists are hoping to cut that time down to 12 to 18 months.

But if a vaccine does arrive, it's only effective if people agree to get the shot, and the Ipsos study shows that nation by nation, people vary wildly on their attitudes toward vaccines.

The US isn't the only country with an anti-vaxxer contingent. Germany, Italy, and Sweden are tied with the US, with 33% of respondents saying they won't get a vaccine if it becomes available.

READ MORE | 64% of South Africans would take a Covid-19 vaccine - 3 charts show what people around the world think

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 more than 26.1 million, while deaths were close to 865 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - just over 6.1 million, as well as the most deaths - nearly 187 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

South Korea, scrambling to control a second wave of Covid-19, vowed on Thursday to double its critical-care hospital beds amid a severe shortage, highlighting the strain of the pandemic on even well-equipped countries.

The spike in serious cases, as older people make up an increasing proportion of patients amid a broader resurgence, marks a sharp turn for a country that was seen as successful in crushing one of the worst early outbreaks of the new coronavirus outside China.

Fewer than 10 intensive-care beds were available in the greater Seoul area, a metropolis of 26 million people, as of Tuesday, health authorities said.

Officials do not give daily numbers, which can fluctuate widely.

The Health Ministry said it will spend 100 billion won ($84 million) to acquire 500 beds for severely ill patients nationwide by the middle of next year, aiming to secure at least 110 by the end of the month.

READ MORE | South Korea scrambles to add hospital beds as Covid-19 resurgence strains system

AFP reports that a Thai DJ sentenced last week to two years in prison has tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Thursday, ending the kingdom's 100-day run without a local transmission.

The man, sentenced on 26 August for what local media said was a drugs offence, had been in contact with at least 30 other people before testing positive on Wednesday.

Those tested so far have all been negative, officials said.

"It is a local transmission after we have passed 100 days," said Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director general of Thailand's Disease Control Department.

The man had worked as a DJ in different bars around Bangkok - including a venue in the tourist backpacker hotspot Khao San Road.

READ MORE | Covid-19 wrap: Virus reemerges in Thailand, WHO plans vaccine jab for 20% of Africa

LATEST RESEARCH

As the economy slowly reopens, masks have become compulsory to limit the spread of coronavirus droplets. But besides cloth masks, other options such as masks with valves and face shields have become prevalent.

In a previous article, Health24 looked at the effectiveness of valve masks and found that, even though they might protect the user, they do little to protect other people from droplets that escape through the built-in vents.

Now, in an effort to establish the effectiveness of these valve masks and face shields, researchers from Florida Atlantic University's College of Engineering and Computer Science used qualitative visualisations to test how face shields and masks with valves perform in limiting the spread of aerosol-sized droplets, according to a news release.

The study, published in the journal Physics of Fluids, was done by using flow visualisation in a laboratory setting. This was done by setting up a laser light sheet and using a mixture of distilled water and glycerine to create synthetic fog. This was then placed in a cough-jet to simulate droplets expelled from a mannequin’s mouth when coughing.

The results showed that, while the face shield protected the user against droplets being propelled forward, it did little to stop expelled droplets moving out from around the visor.

READ MORE | Does a face shield alone protect against the Covid-19 virus?

As the world rushes to produce a vaccine to fight off the coronavirus, questions have been raised over whether one vaccine would be able to counter all the different strains of the virus.

After all, what would be the point of a vaccine if it only offered protection against certain strains?

A mammoth study published in PNAS sought to answer this question by ascertaining how many different strains of the virus might be currently circulating in the world. 

The researchers analysed 18 514 SARS-CoV-2 sequences sampled from infected individuals in 84 countries since December 2019, and compared them to 30 strains sampled at the start of the outbreak in Wuhan and the strains being used to develop vaccines in various trials.

They found that the virus genomes weren't incredibly diverse, with only 5% of sequences showing 11 types of mutations and two mutations dominating the coronavirus population.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Study suggests one vaccine would be enough for all coronavirus strains

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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