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Tag: Coronavirus

Mayor Tests Positive for Covid-19

The City of Tshwane has called on residents to be extremely vigilant and to protect themselves and their loved ones against Covid-19 after Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Randall Williams, tested positive for the virus. With the City’s first citizen now working from home due to the virus, the City has challenged residents to rise above the doubts and recognise that anybody can be infected with the Coronavirus.

Tshwane City chief of staff Jordan Griffiths has pleaded with Tshwane residents to comply with all regulations to assist in the battle against the third wave: “The executive mayor has been working remotely and managing all engagements with stakeholders online. He will continue to isolate and work remotely until his health improves. Please continue to adhere to the relevant Covid-19 protocols and guidelines and stay safe.”

A spokesperson for the City of Tshwane Lindela Mashigo said the City’s Covid-19 Ward-Based Outreach Campaign would continue this week by visiting all seven regions as it intensifies the screening and testing of communities in areas identified as current hot spots. This drive will start today in the Zorbas Shopping Centre at 757 President Steyn Street, Wolmer; then move to Zithobeni Municipal Offices, corner of Mothibe and Mngomezulu Streets tomorrow; and Refilwe Shopping Centre on MJ Runo Drive opposite Refilwe Community Complex on Wednesday.

City health workers on Thursday will be deployed to Castle Gate on 478 Koedoesnek Avenue in Waterkloof Ridge; Moreleta Park NG Church in 1353 De Villebois Mereuil Drive in Pretorius Park and Deon Malherbe Swembad on the corner of Braam Pretorius Streets in Wonderboom on Friday. The last outreach of the week is scheduled for Saturday at the Hillcrest Boulevard Shopping Centre in Lynnwood Road.

The head of Strategic Communication in the City, Selby Bokaba, said that Tshwane’s Covid-19 ward-based outreach campaign has managed to reach more than 27 000 members of the community in the past four months as part of its Covid-19 education and awareness programme through its mobile testing sites.

Jacob Zuma Sentenced to Death

On Sunday the former South African President Jacob Zuma said the decision of the Constitutional Court essentially sentenced him without a trial, and sending him to jail was nothing less than a death sentence. Jacob Zuma in a public address, live from his Nkandla home on Sunday night, spoke on matters pertaining to his jail sentence. A majority ruling by the Constitutional Court decided that he was in contempt of court for not attending the commission and sentenced him to 15 months behind bars.

“The death sentence was declared unconstitutional in South Africa in 1995. As a result of my sacrifice and those of millions of South Africans,” he said. “Sending me to jail during the height of a pandemic at my age is the same as sentencing me to death,” he said.

When asked why he himself was not wearing a mask when he met supporters earlier in the day nor during the press address, his spokesperson Mzwandile Manyi intervened.

“I think it’s important for you to do a bit of research first and understand that sometimes when you have a medical condition, there’s an issue between you and the mask. So you put it on, you pull it off. Doctors regulate that kind of a thing. So the fact that the president is not wearing a mask might very well be a medical condition which is a confidential condition, which he can’t disclose here,” Manyi said, adding that the media was “pointing fingers” while also not sticking to regulations by being present.

Zuma also addressed his supporters earlier on Sunday outside his house, telling them that he was not aware of any transgressions by him despite the ruling. He accused Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of being biased against him.

“I made a submission to Judge Zondo, pointing out exact details to support my contention that he is not neutral. He also made his own submission to disprove my contention and subsequently ruled that his own submission is victorious. This then meant that I was now forced to appear before somebody I have accused of bias and conflict of interest,” Zuma said.

“Had Judge Zondo simply recused himself and allowed my submission to be made to somebody neutral, the people of South Africa would have heard my version as regards all the unsubstantiated allegations against me,” he said.

Zuma also used his address to attack the government’s handling of the pandemic, comparing the COVID-19 lockdown to what happened during apartheid. Lockdowns in line with the different alert levels of the coronavirus pandemic have been vital to managing the spread of the deadly virus.

“We have a level four lockdown, with all hallmarks of a state of emergency, and the curfews of the 1980s. The only difference is that we only use different levels, like contempt of court instead of detention without trial. But the substance is exactly the same. Being jailed without a trial is no different to the apartheid detention without trial.”

 

South Africa Sees Record New Cases

A staggering 24,270 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in South Africa in the last 24 hours. The highest in this third wave. This brings the total known caseload in the country to 2 019 826. Three hundred and three people have sadly succumbed to the virus in the same period, which brings the total death toll to 61,332.

The Department of Health said 1 773 930 people have so far recovered from the virus, with the recovery rate at 87.8%. Meanwhile, the Gauteng Department of Health on Friday said it was repurposing its budget to make more staff and beds available to respond to the growing number of COVID-19 patients being hospitalised during the third wave.

The province is responsible for more than 50% of the coronavirus third wave patients so far. The province said it had to find the beds that were used for field hospitals like Nasrec last year, which would now be added to hospitals to accommodate more patients. The health department’s Ntsakisi Maluleke said they were making more money available to recruit staff and repurpose more beds for the province’s hospitals.

“The beds that have been opened to date from this additional funding in the last 10 days are 86 at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, 25 at Jubilee hospital, 10 at AngloGold Ashanti Hospital and 62 beds at Dr George Mukhari Hospital.”

There are over 7,000 COVID-19 patients currently in private and public hospitals; the majority are being accommodated in private facilities. Both private and public hospitals were more than 90% full and public hospitals had a 60% bed occupancy for COVID related cases.

Discovery Health has now opened its sixth COVID-19 vaccination at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand. Discovery on Friday said with the capacity to deliver 3,800 vaccinations per day to the 3.5 million residents within close proximity of Midrand, the site was one of the largest vaccination centres in South Africa and included more than 48 full-time vaccinators and 150 clinical and support staff.

The Gallagher vaccination site is currently open to people over the age of 50 years who have registered with the government’s electronic vaccination data system and to medical scheme members who have booked online.
“We need to get as many people as possible in South Africa vaccinated and as quickly as possible. This is crucial towards achieving population-level immunity and we’re therefore working hard to support the government in accelerating the national rollout strategy. We’ve also partnered with the Western Cape government to both build and operate the Cape Town International Convention Centre as a mass vaccination site,” said Discovery’s Dr Ryan Noach.

SA Lockdown to be Intensified with 8,881 new cases

Over the past 24 hours, a total of 8,881 new cases of COVID-19 have been added to the country’s infection caseload, taking the total number of positive tests to over 1,712,000. This alarming jump in daily cases brings with the possibility of stricter lockdown rules and closure of schools in South Africa.  The government has not yet indicated that the lockdown level will change, but experts now agree that it seems inevitable as the third wave continues to grow in South Africa.

Many schools have already closed in the Ekurhuleni district and surrounds.  Minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, is rumoured to be addressing the nation on plans for the schools on Sunday, but no confirmation of this has been received.

The Midvaal municipality has become one of the hotspots of the third wave, with thousands of positive cases reported in the past 2 weeks.  The comparatively small municipality has, until now, boasted relatively low covid statistics.

In the same 24-hour cycle, 57,310 total deaths have been recorded in South Africa after 127 fatalities were reported. South Africa’s recovery rate is at 92.8%, translating to a total of at least 1,589,000 recoveries so far.

The Health Department has vaccinated 91,541 people over the last 24 hours, taking the total to more than 1,525,000 for both the elderly who are 60 and above as well as healthcare workers.

Easter Weekend Lockdown Restrictions

On Tuesday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the latest set of restrictions come a year after the country first entered into a lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Changes made to personal behaviour over the last year have resulted in South Africans being able to protect each other and their communities. President Ramaphosa added that the country has seen a decline in both hospitalisations and deaths in recent weeks.

Ramaphosa however said that the country was unable to return to ‘normal’ and that precautions would once again need to be taken over the Easter period. Increased travel is expected as South Africans travel for holiday and religious purposes.  After consultations at a national and provincial level, Ramaphosa said that the following restrictions would be introduced:

  • The sale of alcohol for off-site consumption will be prohibited on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday;
  • On-site sales of alcohol at restaurants, shebeens, and bars will be allowed until 23h00 in the evening;
  • Religious gatherings will be limited to 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors, subject to 50% of the venue size being used;
  • Other gatherings will also be restricted to 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors. This will be reviewed within 15 days;
  • Interprovincial travel is permitted but should be limited where possible;
  • Public recreational places such as beaches and parks will remain open – subject to health protocols being followed;
  • The curfew will be maintained from 00h00 – 04h00;
  • Funerals are limited to two hours and are restricted to 100 people.

Vaccines

Speaking on the National Vaccine Rollout, Ramaphosa said that the country has secured enough Covid-19 vaccines to vaccinate 40 million South Africans.

“In the middle of February, we began Phase 1 of our vaccination programme, which involves the vaccination of health workers. This phase is on track to be completed within three months. More than 250,000 health workers have to date received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as part of the Sisonke trial. We have secured 11 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which we know to be effective against the dominant variants in our country. We have secured a further 20 million doses and are finalising the agreement with Johnson & Johnson. We are also finalising an agreement for 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses. We will make further announcements once these negotiations have been concluded.”

Ramaphosa said that phase two of the country’s vaccination rollout will begin in May, with people over 60 and those with co-morbidities to be targeted. South African will have more than 2,000 sites as vaccination points including health centres and retail stores to assist with this rollout. Eligible South Africans will have to register through the government’s online portal to qualify for access to the vaccines.

“We are developing mechanisms to identify and register undocumented persons so that they too can be vaccinated. We remain committed to keeping the nation informed on every step in the vaccine rollout process,” he said.

Stomach Bug in Alberton – Covid Risks

A Stomach bug is currently doing the rounds in Alberton and people are concerned that some of the symptoms could be indicative of the coronavirus.  Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa, the Head of Operations at Bonitas Medical Aid, said that there are certain important symptoms that would indicate whether you have a stomach virus, or the coronavirus.  Unfortunately, there are also symptoms that are typical for both viruses such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.

“Though the period between November and May are usually marked by more cases of diarrhoea and anemia, there was a 29% decrease in cases this year.  The decrease is most likely due to increased vigilance when it comes to personal hygiene due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  People are more prone to wash their hands, wear face masks and frequent sanitisation,” said Mkhatshwa.

Symptoms of a stomach bug:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Painful joints
  • Headaches
  • General Malaise

 

Symptoms of a stomach virus will appear between 24 and 72 hours from contact.  Symptoms will vary in severity for each person, but usually improves after 3-4 days.  It is important to note however that symptoms could last up to a week.

Covid-19 or Stomach Bug?

Studies have shown that up to 10% of adults with the coronavirus experience gastrointestinal symptoms that are typically associated with a stomach virus.  This includes cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.  Covid-19 patients will however have other symptoms including respiratory difficulties like coughing and shortness of breath.  The new SARS-CoV-2 virus does however affect both the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.

Though it is not necessarily easy to distinguish between the symptoms of the two viruses, a common warning sign of Covid would be the loss of smell and taste.  The Coronavirus will also last considerably longer than a common stomach bug.

Dr Mkhatshwa urges all patients with symptoms that could indicate both the coronavirus and a stomach virus, should see their doctor immediately to be tested.

How to deal with a stomach bug:

  • Avoid all solid foods including, dairy products, meat, fats and sugars.
  • Take frequent sips of water or suck on ice cubes to prevent dehidration.
  • Avoid carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices.
  • When your symptoms improve, start eating small portions of easily digestable food such as dry toast or rice.
  • Only use medication prescribed by a medical professional.  Some over the counter medications could worsen the infection.

 

Covid and Fraud Destroys Businesses

South Africa may have received global praise for its ability to flatten the COVID-19 curve for the first and second waves without access to vaccines, but it has come at a great cost for small- and medium-sized enterprises.  One year since the lockdown began, thousands of small businesses have been closed permanently and its owners and staff have joined the ranks of the unemployed.  The enforcement of lockdown restrictions and the up and down movement between lockdown levels have simply been to much for many businesses.

“We just thought, close for three weeks, we closed and then we’ll open with a bang. Six, eight months later, and now since 23 March [2020], I lost my restaurant and we never opened again. I couldn’t pay my March and April rent, so my landlord locked the doors,” said Nolene Potgieter, owner of a 400-seater franchise restaurant in Polokwane.

Nolene had 60 employees and was well on her way to living a debt-free life.  Then the pandemic hit South Africa and everything changed overnight.  Today Nolene has R3 million debt.  In an effort so survive the lockdown, Nolene partnered with an independent restaurant, but this only lasted for three months between October and December.  With the increased lockdown over December, her business earned only 15% of its income.

“It’s something that I don’t want anybody else to go through. Oh my goodness, I’m already getting so emotional and I haven’t been like this for the last year. Oh my goodness, I didn’t want this to happen…”

Meanwhile, the country’s economy declined by 7% last year. While the figure attached to negative growth is alarming and has broken records that date as far back as the 1920s, economic experts say it could have been much worse.

Johann De Lange, the Founder and director of business valuation company Worth.Business, said: “I think when you look at the 7% there was an expectation that it will be worse. So it is a little bit better and also businesses are bouncing back, they are adapting to the new normal. If you look at households, the same will apply. A lot of people lost their jobs, it is incredibly sad and disruptive but there needs to be an adaptation to the new normal whether it would be to be more entrepreneurial or need to be a little bit more flexible in terms of employment maybe take on some freelancing work and contract work, you do what you need to do to survive”.

Reabetswe Mabotja, owner of an Events company,  said that she followed the advice of experts and became innovative when she could no longer host weddings and events of 250 people and more.

“I started cooking everyday meals for lunch deliveries and home deliveries, for six people, eight people. We started doing gift packs instead of having these big celebrations that we used to. We would do balloons and cakes here and there.”

Unfortunately, this was not enough to see her through the economic storm that was brought on by COVID-19.

“That is actually something that I can do on my own and that means my employees are not coming into work at all. And I’ve got equipment. I have five, six storages that need rent,” she explained.

The Department of Small Business Development introduced a R500 million SMME support intervention for six months from April last year with the intention of assisting businesses with soft loan funding. But both Reabetswe and Nolen said that despite applying, the service was not availed to them.

New Rules and Regulations for Lockdown Level 1

In his address to the nation on Sunday night 28 February 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that the country has clearly emerged from the second wave, with fewer than 10,000 new infections in the past week, compared to 40,000 in the last week of January and 90,000 in the last week of December.

This has allowed a easing of regulations in Lockdown Level 1, including:

Curfew Hours

Curfew, across the country, will be from midnight to 04:00. Only permitted workers, those attending a security or medical emergency, and those who are traveling to or from an airport, may be outside their place of residence during this time.  A six-month prison sentence and/or a fine will deal with transgressors mercilessly.

Closing hours changed to 23:00 for the following businesses:

  • cinemas
  • theatres
  • casinos
  • museums, galleries and archives
  • public swimming pools
  • beaches and public parks
  • game parks, botanical gardens, aquariums and zoos
  • gyms and fitness centres
  • restaurants
  • venues hosting auctions and sport
  • venues hosting faith- based. religious, social, political and cultural gatherings

Alcohol sales

All of the current restrictions on alcohol sales are lifted, and normal trade will be allowed – except for sales during curfew hours, which will not be allowed.

Night clubs will remain closed during the new Level 1

Night clubs will still not be allowed to reopen.

The following gatherings are permitted

Religious, social, political and cultural meetings will be allowed, provided that people can stay at least 1.5 metres away from each other, and that all other health protocols are strictly adhered to.

Indoor gatherings may not exceed 50% of the venue capacity, and may allow up to a maximum of 100 people.

Outdoor gatherings may not exceed 50% of venue capacity, but can allow up to a maximum 250 people.

Workplace rules

Gatherings at a place of work are allowed, subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.

The regulations states that anyone who is able to work from home must still do so. “However, persons will be permitted to perform any type of work outside the home. and to travel to and from work and for work purposes under Alert Level 1.”

At workplaces, there must be “strict” compliance to health protocols and social distancing measures, and the return to work must be phased in, and “done in a manner that avoids and reduces risks of infection”.

Funerals

Night vigils and other gatherings before or after funerals are still not permitted. The duration of a funeral is restricted to a maximum of two hours.

Attendance of a funeral is limited to 100 persons or less and if the venue is too small to hold the prescribed number of persons observing a distance of at least one and a half metres from each other, not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be allowed.

Borders

The new Level 1 rules do not change anything in terms of the borders. The 33 land borders that are closed will remain closed, while the twenty open borders will remain open.

The five airports that are permitted to allow international travel remain OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka, Kruger Mpumalanga and Lanseria airports.

Masks

The wearing of masks in public places is still mandatory and failure to do so remains a criminal offence.

Sport matches

No spectators are allowed at sports matches. International sport events involving countries with a low or medium Covid-19 infection and transmission rate will continue to be allowed.

Passenger ships still banned

Travel on passenger ships for international leisure purposes, excluding small crafts, are still not allowed for the new Level 1 Lockdown.

Initiation practices

These remain permitted, subject to the submission of a “risk adjusted plan” to government.

Post-initiation celebrations (“imigidi “) are permitted, but must comply with to the same limits as on other gatherings listed above.

Visiting allowed

“Controlled visits” by members of the public are allowed to older persons’ residential facilities, hospitals and other health establishments, correctional centres, remand detention facilities, police holding cells and  military detention facilities.

The Independent Electoral Commission may also be allowed to visit these institutions, for voter registration and for special voting.

South African municipal elections will be held in coming months.

Vaccination progress

Ramaphosa said that more than 67,000 healthworkers were vaccinated in 10 days. As a new batch of the 80,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines arrived in the country this weekend, the number of vaccination sites will increase from 17 to 49 sites next week.  Of these, 32 will be in public hospitals, and 17 in private hospitals.

Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will get another two million vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, bringing the total order to 11 million.

Some 2.8 million of these vaccinations will be delivered in the second quarter of 2021, and the rest throughout the year.

He expects that phase two of the vaccination drive – which will include the elderly, essential workers, those with comorbidities and those who work and live in institutional settings – will start in late April.

 

Third Wave of Covid as Winter Comes Closer

The Gauteng Premier David Makhura warned that a third COVID-19 wave was still a possibility and the vaccine rollout programme had to be done with great urgency, especially with the winter season coming soon. The province has over 401,000 COVID-19 cases and 9,481 people died of the virus in Gauteng alone.

The vaccine rollout programme begun last week with the Johnson and Johnson jabs as part of a research programme among healthcare workers. The aim of the program is to inoculate 10.4 million people this year as part of the country’s plan to immunise at least 67% of the population. According to Makhura 5,000 healthcare workers had already received their jabs in the province.

“The vaccination plan has to be rolled out as a matter of urgency to reach massive numbers of people so we can save more lives.”

The Gauteng premier also announced his four priorities for the new financial year amid the pandemic, which include plans to boost the economy. Gauteng province – which is seen as the economic hub of the country – is deeply concerned that many municipalities deteriorated during the pandemic due to a loss of over R8.75 billion in revenue between April and July last year.

Makhura said that this year had been devastating for the residents and the state but that he believes there is hope.

“We’re beginning to see hope, we’re entering the new vaccine phase. We will bounce back.”

Steve Biko Hospital Refuses to Vaccinate Private Sector Doctors

Doctors employed at private hospitals claims that they were refused COVID-19 vaccines at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, despite having appointments. The Steve Biko Hospital is one of two in Gauteng that are administering vaccines to health care workers along with the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto.

The Gauteng province received 16,000 Johnson & Johnson doses intended for health workers. One doctor who works at an emergency unit at a private hospital claims that she had an appointment to be vaccinated and followed all procedures, yet was turned away before even joining the queue.  She said that officials at the hospital attended to people without appointments while refusing to assist those who have followed the prescribed procedures.

The medical practitioner said that she works with seriously ill COVID-19 patients every day but was not even considered to be vaccinated. The Gauteng Health Department responded to the allegations and said an unexpected influx of health workers posed a serious challenge to employees at the hospital.

“The demand for health workers to be vaccinated has been growing which resulted in workers storming the Steve Biko Hospital fearing the vaccine will run out,” said Motalatale Modiba, of the department.

The department has however re-assured health workers in Gauteng that no one will be refused the jab. More than 2,000 health workers have already been vaccinated.

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Tame Communications (known as tameTIMES) was established in 1997. This long-established popular community title includes the key shopping centres:  Alberton City, Mall...

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