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Tag: Coronavirus

Ramaphosa to Address the Nation Tonight

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation at 20:00 on Thursday night on developments in the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown.

The address follows the president’s meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council, the president’s Coordinating Council, and Cabinet.

The president addressed the nation earlier this month, where he eased COVID-19 regulations and moved the country down to lockdown level 2 after a drop in the number of infections.

Covid-19 Deaths Remains High with 160 Recorded

With 160 more fatalities recorded over the past 24-hour cycle, South Africa’s COVID-19 death toll has now risen to 86,376.

Over the same period of time, 2,197 more tests also came back as positive, with the country’s caseload reaching 2 743 865.

On the vaccine front, 16 358 076 jabs have been administered in South Africa so far.

Gauteng Begins Door to Door Vaccination Strategy

The Department of Health in Gauteng has had to develop more innovative strategies as people in the most populous province in the country have not been showing up at vaccination sites to get their jabs.

Gauteng is trailing behind the more rural provinces such as Limpopo and the Eastern Cape when it comes to vaccinating its citizens.   According to statistics, the Eastern Cape has the highest number of adults vaccinated in the country at 32.84%. Limpopo managed to vaccinate 31.79%, and the Free State has also had high vaccination turnouts with 30.24% of its adult population getting the jab.

Meanwhile, Gauteng has only managed to vaccinate 25% of all adults in the province. The province aims to vaccinate at least 10 million people by December 2021.

Since the pandemic started in 2020,  19 102 people have died in the province. Currently, there are 2 665 hospitalized in the province.  Kwara Kekana, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Health says this has led the province to try new ways to persuade people to get the jab.

The department started setting up pop-up sites at taxi ranks, workplaces, and other places where people congregate to bolster vaccination rates.   Kekana says from these events, they realised that hesitancy was brought on by several factors, including widespread fake news, concerns about the side effects of the vaccines, and inadequate information.

Professor Alex van den Heever, a health and social security expert, says it is not easy to determine why Gauteng is not attracting as many people for vaccination as the other provinces.

“I think the Gauteng department of health is not a strong administration. However, it is also the province with the largest population. Hesitancy may explain some of this. But it does take an active process to pull in the numbers. Rather than just setting up and waiting.”

The pop-up sites have been working and Kekana said they were, “… encouraged by the figures”. The department has managed to administer more than a million doses from the end of August to date.

The department is now moving the vaccination drive to people’s doorsteps. They have now started door-to-door campaigns for inoculation. The provincial sports department on Saturday,   will host a vaccination event at Altitude Beach in Fourways, where artists like Prince Kaybee and Lamiez Holworthy will be performing.

Kekana says: “The provincial government has been engaged in a drive to take the vaccines to where people are, and this forms part of those efforts to increase the number of sites, and have more sites in communities apart from the non-clinical sites.”

Gauteng has only administered around four million Covid-19 vaccine doses to approximately three million people.

Lockdown Restrictions To Be Relaxed

A continued decline in South Africa’s Covid-19 statistics and the recent comments from health officials indicate that the South African government could relax lockdown restrictions for South Africa in the coming weeks, said economists from the Bureau for Economic Research (BER).

The group referred to comments by the Department of Health on Friday (3 September), with Joe Phaala, the minister of health, stating that as soon as there is a sustained decrease in infections, he would advise the president to relax restrictions.

“Given the recent positive trends in new Covid-19 cases in most provinces, a further loosening of lockdown restrictions could follow in the next week or so.

“The ministry also confirmed that sufficient stocks are now available to vaccinate everyone who needs a jab: if enough people would show up, South Africa is able to do between 300,000 and 400,000 shots per day.”

Last week, the country vaccinated about 250,000 people per weekday. However, vaccination rates over weekends remain considerably lower. Only about one in four adults are vaccinated, with around 16% of the adult population fully vaccinated.

The government is not currently planning to make vaccinations mandatory, but the health minister said they were looking into what he called  ‘soft’ incentives to encourage vaccinations  – such as given access to specific events to vaccinated people only.

The BER said that more South African companies would likely introduce mandatory policies as the rollout of the vaccination process continues.

“Discovery was the first JSE-listed company to mandate vaccinations for all staff, as of the start of 2022, and will in due course likely be followed by more local companies with many international businesses already mandating vaccines for employees,” it said.

The government reviews lockdown restrictions on a weekly basis and is encouraged by the declining number of Covid-19 cases seen in the country, said health minister Joe Phaahla. Addressing members of the media on Friday, Phaahla said an analysis would be conducted by the health department and the Coivd-19 ministerial advisory committees in the coming days.

If there is indeed a sustained decline, the government will ease restrictions, he said. Phaahla also said the two key concerns are KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, with the rest of the country seeing steady declines.

“We will continue to assess this and will give a report to president Cyril Ramaphosa and the team of leaders in the next week. If it becomes clear that there is stability and the infection rates are definitely stabilising, we will give the necessary advice.

“You can look forward to some more relaxations – but there will still be a responsibility on us to follow the protocols.”

Huisgenoot did report a ‘coronavirus outbreak’ in 2003 – but not Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic caused by a “novel” coronavirus discovered in China in December 2019 has locked down countries across the world and killed more than 1.9 million people as of 11 January 2021.

Huisgenoot wrote about a “supervirus” discovered in China as far back as 2003.  Was this a prediction?

In early 2021, several Facebook posts have shared copies of pages from what appears to be a 2003 issue of Huisgenoot that discuss “’n agressiewe variant van die corona-virus” – “an aggressive variant of the coronavirus”.

Several posters speculated that the magazine had already reported on “this” coronavirus – “Huisgenoot alreeds berig oor hierdie corona virus” – and suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic is the “exact same thing all over again”.

There are Facebook posts about the older Huisgenoot article from as early as May 2020, but since newer posts on the same topic were published in the first week of January 2021, these earlier posts have also seen hundreds of thousands of new views.  Did Huisgenoot report on “this coronavirus” in 2003? And is Covid-19 the “same thing all over again?”

A tale of two viruses

It is difficult to discern the date on the magazine cover in many of the images shared, but these close-up photos confirm the article was in the 10 April 2003 issue.  The article is about “ernstige akute asemhalingsindroom (EAAS)”, Afrikaans for “severe acute respiratory syndrome”, or Sars.

Sars is caused by a coronavirus, a family of viruses named for the “crown” or shape of the spikes on their outer surface. Corona is Latin for crown. The virus that causes Sars is named “Sars-associated coronavirus” or “Sars-CoV”.

It was first discovered in February 2003 when a series of Sars infections were reported in China. The disease spread to several other countries in an epidemic that was never declared a pandemic. Only 8,098 people were diagnosed with Sars, and 774 died.

Covid-19 is caused by a different but closely related coronavirus, named “Sars-CoV-2”. This virus was first reported in China in December 2019, and later detected in other countries.

Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 12 March 2020, at which point 125,260 cases and 4,613 deaths had been identified worldwide.

The bigger picture

Because they are so closely related and share such similar names and origin, it can be easy to confuse the virus that causes Sars with the virus that causes Covid-19. But these simple mistakes have played into a broader trend of misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

False claims that the pandemic was predicted by a number of historical figures, for example, have informed conspiracy theories that the disease was artificially created.

Huisgenoot did report on the 2003 Sars outbreak caused by a coronavirus. But this was not the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, a far deadlier disease. The 2003 article was not prophetic.

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.

About Tame Times

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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