Coronavirus morning update: 'Worst over' in Gauteng, PPE a 'dire necessity' for healthcare workers

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 603 338.

According to the latest update, 12 843 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 500 102 recoveries.

So far, a total of more than 3.5 million tests have been conducted, with 24 224 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions in Gauteng have continued to decline, while the province's testing for the virus has remained consistent.

This is according to the Gauteng Provincial Command Council, which gave its weekly Covid-19 update on Friday.

Gauteng Department of Health COO (chief operating officer) Lesiba Malotana said he was of the view that the peak had now passed and the "worst is over".

According to the data, the highest number of hospital admissions was recorded in the middle of July. On 22 July, a total of 7 193 patients were hospitalised for the virus, of which 1 863 patients were on oxygen.

As of 19 August, there were 3 311 Covid-19 patients admitted to public and private hospitals across the province, of which 922 were on oxygen.

In both private and public hospitals, 320 patients were ventilated.

Daily Covid-19 infections have consistently dropped since the middle of July. On 9 July, the province recorded its highest daily increase of 6 531 new Covid-19 cases - and, by 19 August, 944 cases were recorded.

READ MORE | Covid-19 in Gauteng: The 'worst is over', says provincial health department

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is concerned that 240 healthcare workers have died of Covid-19 since the beginning of the outbreak.

HPCSA spokesperson Priscilla Sekhonyana said healthcare workers selflessly put their lives at risk and, as a result, were vulnerable to the virus.

"Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a dire necessity that is required for healthcare workers, especially for those working [on] the front line," Sekhonyana said in a statement on Friday.

She said it was the duty of healthcare employers to ensure the appropriate PPEs were provided at the appropriate level of care.

Nationally, 27 360 healthcare workers, from both the public and private sector, are reported to have been infected, according to the national health department.

"It is our obligation to ensure that we preserve our assets and work together to assist our healthcare workers by not overwhelming the healthcare system," the council said.

READ MORE | PPE a 'dire necessity' - HPCSA's concern after 240 healthcare workers die of Covid-19

Patients with Covid-19, who are considered to be at "end of life stages", may be allowed restricted visits by loved ones, according to new protocols released by some hospitals on Friday.

It will require the permission of hospital management and will be within strict guidelines.

"Visitation for end of life situations will continue to be arranged by the hospital general manager to ensure a compassionate approach, regardless of a patient's Covid-19 status," said Netcare.

"Such visitation is subject to certain conditions, which will be discussed with the patient's family. However, Netcare hospitals will accommodate requests as far as possible."

Melomed said: "There are no visits to people with Covid-19, but we will arrange a visit to the Covid-19 patients, who are at the end of life stage. We will provide the full [personal protective equipment] to the visitor with strict control measures."

Families, nurses and doctors have anguished over families and loved ones not being able to visit patients with Covid-19 at hospitals.

But as hospitals return to doing elective surgeries and treating chronic conditions, which were neglected because of the fear of going to a hospital during the lockdown, there are new rules.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Hospitals to allow visits for 'end of life' stages - but with strict guidelines

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.

Early on Saturday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 22.86 million, while deaths were close to 798 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 5.62 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 175 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

The World Health Organisation said on Friday it hopes the planet will be rid of the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years - faster than it took for the Spanish flu.

"We hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters from the WHO's headquarters in Geneva, insisting that it should be possible to tame the novel coronavirus faster than the deadly 1918 pandemic.

Compared to back then, the world today is at a disadvantage due to its "globalisation, closeness, connectedness", which has allowed the novel coronavirus to spread around the world at lightning speed, Tedros acknowledged.

But the world also now has the advantage of far better technology, he said.

By "utilising the available tools to the maximum and hoping that we can have additional tools like vaccines, I think we can finish it in a shorter time than the 1918 flu."

READ MORE | WHO hopes Covid-19 pandemic will end in 'less than two years'

LATEST RESEARCH

Early in the Covid-19 outbreak, Health24 wrote about the novel coronavirus and how it uses its spikes to dock onto the surface of human cells with the help of a receptor called ACE2.

Vaccine developers have centred their research around these spike proteins and ACE2 receptors, as it provided insight into how the virus triggers an immune response in humans.

According to a news release, German scientists – including experts from of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, and Goethe University Frankfurt – have been focusing on the surface structure of the virus to gain insights they can use for the development of vaccines and therapies to treat infected patients.

The team used a combination of cryo-electron tomography, subtomogram averaging and molecular dynamics simulations to analyse the exact molecular structure of the spike protein.

Their data showed that the globular portion of the spike protein, where the receptor-binding region is situated and helps the virus to successfully bind to human cells, is actually connected to a flexible stalk.

"The stalk was expected to be quite rigid," said Gerhard Hummer from the MPI of Biophysics and the Institute of Biophysics at Goethe University Frankfurt in a news release. "But in our computer models and in the actual images, we discovered that the stalks are extremely flexible.”

The researchers were able to identify that the stalk had three hinges that give it its flexibility.

"Like a balloon on a string, the spikes appear to move on the surface of the virus and thus are able to search for the receptor for docking to the target cell," explains Jacomine Krijnse Locker, group leader at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut.

READ MORE | New discovery explains how coronavirus may be able to infect cells

As research on Covid-19 progressed, loss of smell (anosmia) as a symptom was officially added to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention’s list of Covid-19 symptoms. At that stage, it still wasn’t clear what caused this phenomenon.

A previous Health24 article explored the possibility that loss of smell could be a neurological indicator of early infection with the new coronavirus.

Now, new research shows that the smell disorder in Covid-19 differs from similar symptoms caused by other forms of upper respiratory tract infections.

According to the researchers, whose study was published in the journal Rhinology, the main difference between loss of smell caused by Covid-19 and that of a cold is the way people breathe. People who lose their sense of smell as a result of Covid-19 are still able to breathe freely through their noses, but are unable to detect bitter or sweet tastes.

Loss of smell as a result of other infections such as a common cold is accompanied by a runny or blocked nose.

READ MORE | Loss of smell from Covid-19 differs from common cold

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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