Coronavirus morning update: SA faces high debt, and stolen Covid-19 PPE money 'will be recovered'



Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 618 286.

According to the latest update, 13 628 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 531 338 recoveries.

So far, more than 3.6 million tests have been conducted, with just over 19 000 new tests reported.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

President Cyril Ramaphosa told the National Assembly on Thursday afternoon that various loans South Africa has pursued since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic would not sacrifice the sovereignty of the country.

While he acknowledged that "one or two" conditions might "raise eyebrows", he said they were not debilitating enough to consider turning down assistance.

Since South Africa has received approval for loans from international finance institutions such as the New Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, opposition politicians have questioned the conditions that came with these loans.

The coronavirus has infected some 616 000 South Africans, killing 13 502. The pandemic has also dealt a blow to the South African economy, as it has done in most countries around the world.

The IMF loaned SA $4.3 billion at a rate of 1% while the New Development Bank loaned $1 billion and the AfDB loaned R5 billion.

Government has reached almost R3 trillion in debt exposure. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni noted in his supplementary budget that consolidated budget spending,including the servicing of debt, would exceed R2 trillion for the first time in history.

READ MORE | Paying SA's debt could cost more than healthcare spend, Ramaphosa warns

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has made public Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC)advisories, some of which raise concern over certain Disaster Management Act regulations.

The recommendations include ones relating to regulations which seemingly did not correlate with efforts to flatten the Covid-19 curve, advice on the reopening of schools, Covid-19 modelling, mass testing, the use of cloth masks, asymptomatic infections, the impact of the hard lockdown, as well as efforts to avoid a possible resurgence of the virus.

News24 previously filed a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application for access to more than 70 advisories by the MAC, which was refused.

The advisories were published following the filing of an internal appeal earlier this month. News24 also filed a PAIA request for access to more detailed Covid-19 data, which was ignored.

In an advisory dated 17 August, MAC chair, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, says the lowering of the alert level to level 2 "is aimed at preventing a resurgence by testing efforts to monitor cases and outbreaks to implement local efforts to reduce/prevent transmission".

READ MORE | After months of pleas Zweli Mkhize makes ministerial advisory recommendations public

Monies stolen from the state by unscrupulous companies and individuals by inflating the prices of personal protective equipment (PPE) will be recovered.

That's according to Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, who briefed the media on Thursday on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting held earlier this week.

Mthembu said those implicated in corruption would be severely punished.

"The scourge of corruption, which manifests itself in the blatant theft and looting of state resources, is the biggest societal cancer that has the potential to erode public trust in government's concerted efforts to improve the lives of the people. Cabinet condemns in the strongest possible terms all acts of corruption and is confident that all wrongdoers will eventually be prosecuted, without fear or favour," Mthembu said.

Law enforcement agencies had dealt with a flood of Covid-19 PPE tender corruption, most notably in Gauteng, where several high-ranking ANC politicians and their family members scored big tenders.

Mthembu said Cabinet would give the necessary support to all law-enforcement agencies.

READ MORE | Covid-19 PPE money stolen from the state will be recovered - Jackson Mthembu

The National Taxi Alliance on Wednesday called on Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to "consider the plight" of long-distance taxi operators, saying it was "grossly disappointed" that under the amended transport regulations, the government did not lift the 70% loading capacity or relax restrictions on cross-border taxis."

Long-distance taxis have not operated profitably since 27 March, yet most of the taxis are still paying installments and many are on the verge of being repossessed by the financial institutions," spokesperson Theo Malele said in a statement.

"There appears to be shift from the undertakings by government to balance the saving of lives with that of earning a living. These taxis are feeding, clothing and educating families and extended families, it is therefore inconsiderate of our government to maintain the 70% loading capacity when the realities reflect otherwise."

Among the new travel regulations announced by Mbalula on Tuesday, interprovincial travel is now permitted, though subject to restrictions on public transport.

Mini-buses and midi-buses are permitted to carry a maximum of 70% of their licensed passengers when undertaking long-distance travel, defined as any distance in excess of 200km, irrespective of whether it crosses the provincial boundary or not.

Buses, shuttle services, scholar transport, mini-buses and midi-buses on trips less than 200km can operate at 100%, but rail operations are still only permitted to carry 70% passengers.

READ MORE | NTA calls for reconsideration of 70% long-distance capacity to ‘avoid a fallout’


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 24.2 million, while deaths were almost 828 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 5.8 million, as well as the most deaths - just over 180 000.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Reuters reports that four members of a dwindling tribe in India's far off Andaman Islands have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said on Thursday as the country reported 75760 new infections, the highest-single-day rise.

The Great Andamanese are one of the six tribes of Mongoloid and African origin, who have lived in the Andamans in the Bay of Bengal for thousands of years.

Only about 50 members survived, after thousands were killed by British colonisers in the 19th century or died later due to diseases. Indian officials have since tried to protect their way of life while opening up the islands to the fruits of development such as access to healthcare.

Dr Avijit Roy, who is leading the fight against the outbreak of Covid-19 in the islands, said they had run tests on the Great Andamanese living on one of the coral-reef islands in the archipelago and four of the men had turned out to be positive.

"They have been moved to hospital," he said. Officials believe the men may have travelled to the main Andaman islands and caught the disease.

The London-based Survival International said authorities must work to prevent the virus reaching other remote tribes.

READ MORE | Covid-19: Virus hits remote tribe, Spain tightens curbs in schools


Shops, restaurants and offices are using temperature readers to screen for potential Covid-19-infected customers and employees, but without an invasive swab test, you can never know for sure who has contracted the potentially deadly virus.

That might change soon as a new technology is being developed to test for the new coronavirus without invasive testing.

Emanuela Marasco, an assistant professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology at George Mason University in the US is currently creating a contactless fingertip imaging system that might be able to detect Covid-19.

The idea is that scanners could pick up certain substances excreted by the body that are unique to SARS-CoV-2.

“Our study will evaluate the sensitivity of sweat metabolite biometrics (body measurements) for detecting the Covid-19 infection in people with and without symptoms,” says Marasco.

“Monitoring biomarkers in sweat is non-invasive, and it could be much more accurate than a temperature check, which is what is currently used.”

READ MORE | Scientists are working on a new way to detect Covid-19 – through the fingertips

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, researchers are working tirelessly to develop a vaccine.

Currently, 16 vaccines have already reached clinical phases, while more than 100 are in the immunisation pipeline. But how effective does a vaccine need to be in order for the world to safely "open up" again?

A new study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, made use of various modelled scenarios and sensitivity analyses to evaluate the impact of introducing vaccines with different efficacies without the implementation of other measures.

The model found that if 75% of the population got vaccinated, the vaccine would have to have an efficacy (ability to protect against infection) of at least 70% to prevent an epidemic, and at least 80% to extinguish an ongoing epidemic.

If only 60% of the population got vaccinated, the thresholds would be even higher, i.e. around 80% to prevent an epidemic and 100% to extinguish an ongoing epidemic, according to a news release.

READ MORE | How effective should a Covid-19 vaccine be for the world to turn 'back to normal'?

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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