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Tag: Covid-19

Ramaphosa On Lifting State of Disaster

Cyril Ramaphosa says the country will need to meet certain requirements before South Africa’s state of disaster regulations can be lifted.

The president said that the state of disaster can only be lifted once the appropriate Covid-19 prevention regulations are in place in each sector outside of the Disaster Management Act – or if the Covid-19 pandemic ends.

Responding in a parliamentary Q&A this week, the president said that all organs of state must develop sustainable regulatory measures for the control of Covid-19 beyond the state of disaster.

“Measures must be infused into policies and regulations to normalise Covid-19 preventative measures in the society. The current measures contained in the regulations for dealing with the disaster in the context of the risk-adjusted strategy remain necessary to limit the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the state of disaster will end:

  • Once sustainable sectoral regulatory measures for Covid-19 response are in place; or
  • The need to invoke current extraordinary measures provided for under the state of disaster ceases, all the regulations and directions issued under the national state of disaster will cease to exist.

The president said that continuous assessments by the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet will determine the satisfaction of these conditions for terminating or allowing the state of disaster to lapse.

On Sunday (12 September), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) gazetted an extension of the national state of disaster, which will see it continue until 15 October 2021. The state of disaster was declared on the 15th  of March 2020.

South Africa has now been in a state of disaster for 18 months with the latest extension being the 16th from Dlamini-Zuma. The government has relied on the regulations to introduce and give effect to lockdown restrictions, which it used to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Sakeliga, the business interest group, has now lodged a court application to compel the government to disclose its grounds for the state of disaster, disaster management regulations, and lockdown levels.

The court application forms part of a process, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, to obtain Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s records of decision-making regarding the lockdown and all disaster management regulations since the beginning of the pandemic in South Africa, Sakeliga said.

“The goalposts for when the restriction must be lifted are constantly shifting. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s point of view this past Sunday, that the restrictions will continue until an acceptable number of people have been vaccinated, contradicts the earlier rationale that restrictions are a temporary step and is only intended to flatten waves of infection,” said Piet le Roux, chief executive of Sakeliga.

“This previous standard, as well as hospital capacity and the number of deaths, are now inexplicably shifting to the background. The shifting of goalposts, without transparency, is detrimental to the social, economic and constitutional order.”

Sakeliga will disclose the information obtained through this process for the consideration of civil society and the general public, le Roux said.

Alan Winde, the premier of the Western Cape has also raised concerns about the country’s current regulations and what seems to be a never-ending national state of disaster.

“I am concerned that president Cyril Ramaphosa did not present a concrete plan on when he will end the national state of disaster. Instead, the disaster was extended for another month by the minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs,” said Winde.

“The hard truth is that we cannot be in this state of disaster forever, and we need to have a frank discussion on how we will continue to manage Covid-19 in the future without relying on this extreme instrument.”

“We have learnt how to manage waves effectively in the province, and we continue to have the capacity to do so at the provincial level. I will be engaging with the president on this important matter during the national lekgotla this week, where all nine premiers will be present.”

US hospital gets permission to stop prescribing ivermectin for Covid

An Ohio hospital has been given permission to cease the prescription of ivermectin after an August lawsuit forced them to administer the drug.

Ivermectin, a drug traditionally used to treat heartworm in horses and parasitic infections in humans, has become popularised for the treatment of Covid-19 by anti-vaxxers, despite a lack of evidence that it is a viable treatment.

On 23 August, Julie Smith successfully sued West Chester Hospital in Ohio forcing it to administer ivermectin to her husband, Jeffrey Smith, 51. He was being treated for Covid-19 in the ICU since July 15.

However, an Ohio judge has now overturned this ruling, allowing West Chester Hospital to continue to ban the use of ivermectin, court documents show.

The appeal has been overturned on the grounds that Fred Wagshul – a founder of the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCCA), a group that has spread claims of ivermectin’s efficacy – who prescribed the drug to Smith. He did not qualify for practicing privileges at the hospital where Smith is being treated, the court heard.

The couple has not have received a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, telling the court that they did not trust it.

The appeal – and therefore the cancellation of the use of the drug – came after Mr Smith had been taking ivermectin for two weeks.

Julie Smith’s lawyer Ralph Lorigo, chairman of Erie County’s Conservative Party, also sued a number of hospitals to force them to prescribe the drug, including two hospitals in New York and one in Chicago, according to local news outlets Buffalo News and the Chicago Tribune.

On 8 September New Mexico’s acting secretary of health, David Scrase, said in a livestreamed Covid-19 update that his state had seen the first known death from covid related ivermectin poisoning, with another patient receiving treatment in intensive care.

The news comes as the Australian Government announces it will be banning the use of ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment after prescriptions for the drug increased three-fold.

“Ivermectin is not approved for use in Covid-19 in Australia or in other developed countries, and its use by the general public for Covid-19 is currently strongly discouraged by the National Covid Clinical Evidence Taskforce, the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration,” the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Australia’s medicine regulator, wrote in a statement.

“The doses of ivermectin that are being advocated for use in unreliable social media posts and other sources for Covid-19 are significantly higher than those approved and found safe for scabies or parasite treatment.

“These higher doses can be associated with serious adverse effects, including severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness, neurological effects such as dizziness, seizures, and coma,” the TGA added.

Merck, the manufacturer of ivermectin, has also warned against taking the drug.

It said, in a statement, that there was “no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against Covid-19 from pre-clinical studies; no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with Covid-19 disease; and a concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies.”

Netcare and Wits team up for vaccination site

C19 vaccine for students and their families at Wits Main Campus

Wednesday, 8 September 2021, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) students, alumni and their families and friends can now receive their COVID-19 vaccinations on the Wits main campus, thanks to a partnership between the University and the Netcare Group.

“It is a top health priority to ensure that everyone has easy access to the COVID-19 vaccine, which remains our best protection against this deadly virus,” says Mande Toubkin, general manager: emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment at Netcare.

For at least the next three weeks until 23 September, the COVID-19 vaccination team from Netcare Milpark Hospital in collaboration with Professor Shabir Madhi, dean of the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences, will assist students from the university, staff, their families and others to receive their vaccines conveniently on campus.

The vaccination site opened on Monday, 6 September, in the Old Mutual Sports Hall at 1 Yale Road, Braamfontein, on the Main Campus of Wits University. The first in line to be vaccinated at the new site was the Wits student representative council (SRC) president, Mpendulo Mfeka, who was vaccinated by Prof Madhi himself.

There is no charge for people who are not on medical aid, and the vaccination will not affect the day-to-day benefit for those with medical aid. The site administers the Pfizer vaccine and is open on weekdays from 08:00 to 15:00. Those wishing to vaccinate simply need to bring their ID document or passport, and will be assisted to register their details on the electronic vaccination data system [EVDS] if they have not already done so.

Jacques Du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, thanked Prof Madhi and the University on behalf of Netcare for the opportunity to bring vaccinations to the Wits community. “I’m appealing to everyone, in your families and in your communities, bring your mother and father, your sister and your friends, and helpers at home, so that they can be protected. Please make the most of this opportunity for vaccination,” Du Plessis says.

This is another Netcare vaccination “pop-up” site and has initial capacity to vaccinate some 200 persons per day, which can be scaled up to meet demand as needed, answering the Department of Health [NDoH] and Business for South Africa’s [B4SA] call to bring the vaccine to the people. This adds to the four established Netcare Vaccination sites at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, Netcare Lakeview Hospital in Benoni, Johannesburg, Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital, in Durban, and Old Mutual Park in Pinelands, Cape Town, which together are able to vaccinate 5000 people daily, Monday to Friday.

To date, Netcare has vaccinated more than 150 000 people including 33 000 healthcare workers at Netcare. An additional 22 Medicross vaccination sites are anticipated to further bolster the national vaccination rollout soon.

“In South Africa, some 13.7 million people have received at least one dose and approximately half of them are fully vaccinated with either the Johnson & Johnson or the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. We need to get to at least 35 million people by the end of the year, however with the vaccination apathy in society we are not likely to reach this level of protection. Unfortunately, we could expect a scenario that we will see a fourth wave from the middle of December and peaking in January,” Du Plessis said at the launch of the Wits vaccination site.

Prof Madhi encouraged the University’s 40 000 students to be vaccinated, as this not only reduces the chance of being infected and suffering serious illness but also of transmitting the virus to others. “The only sustainable manner in which we will be able to get back to a normal lifestyle is to ensure you can protect people, not necessarily only against getting infected, but most importantly to prevent people from developing severe disease and dying from COVID-19. The only thing that is available to us to achieve that goal is vaccines, despite what others might say on social media,” Prof Madhi said.

Toubkin expressed appreciation to Wits’ academic head of the emergency medicine division, Professor Feroza Motara, and academic head of the clinical associate division and chair of the COVID-19 logistics team, Scott Smalley, for their roles in bringing the initiative to fruition. “Thanks to the support of Prof Madhi, what was initially planned as a once off vaccination day has now turned into a three week campaign that will enable thousands of students and others in the Wits community to have this life-saving vaccine,” she adds.

“Many students and university staff have already made use of the COVID-19 vaccination site at Netcare Milpark Hospital. This new initiative brings vaccination even closer, making it more convenient than ever for those studying or working at Wits to be protected as far as possible against COVID-19,” Toubkin says.

“Although the vaccine is highly effective, it is still important to adhere to COVID-19 precautions including maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask, practising proper hand hygiene and avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated places. The more people who are vaccinated, the greater the level of protection in our communities and in our country will be, which could save many thousands of lives.”

Businesses Insist on Mandatory Vaccination in SA

As South Africa continues to ramp up its Covid-19 vaccination efforts, more businesses are prone to require that both its employees and customers are vaccinated, says Business Leadership South Africa chief executive Busi Mavuso.

Writing in her weekly open letter to South Africans, Mavuso said the government should consider introducing Covid-19 vaccine incentives and a digital pass to achieve a vaccination rate of 70%-80% of adults.

While public policy can drive some vaccine incentives, she said the private sector also has a part to play in the success of the vaccine drive.

“Many employers have led the charge in supporting employees to access vaccines. Some employers can make vaccination mandatory where their employees are exposed to the public – like restaurants – or work in close contact with each other.”

Businesses also have the right to control access to their premises, she said.  “Just as they can insist employees who are exposed to the public are vaccinated, they can insist that customers who are exposed to their employees or each other are vaccinated.

“As the vaccine program continues, I expect to see businesses becoming more strident in requiring vaccination both from their customers and employees.”

Mavuso said that she expects lots of ideological contestation around these measures.

“Those who refuse to be vaccinated may well proclaim that is their right, but it is also the right of the rest of us to protect ourselves from the risks posed by unvaccinated people and to do whatever we can to reach the overall vaccination rates necessary for life to go back to normal,” she said.

“Moving beyond all lockdown restrictions is one critical component to the wider effort to drive an economic recovery, one that is going to start to turn around the unemployment trend, reignite economic growth and start to heal the damaged financial position of the state.”

Government looking at possibility of mandatory vaccines

In a media briefing on Friday (27 August), the Minister of Health Joe Phaahla said that his department is discussing the introduction of mandatory Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa.

Phaahla said that this is a matter that has been raised for official consideration, with the health department now discussing the conditions under which mandatory vaccines may be possible in South Africa.

He said however that no official determination has yet been made. Phaahla added that in his personal view, it is unlikely that the government will introduce an official regulation, which states that everyone must vaccinate.

But, he said, it is possible that certain jobs such as the services sector and the entertainment sector could require mandatory vaccines. Phaahla said that the government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee is also looking at the possibility of booster doses for those who have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Gauteng Covid 4th Wave

The Gauteng provincial government has warned there’s a high risk of a resurgence of another wave of COVID-19 infections as the third wave is showing no discernable signs of slowing down in other provinces.

The provincial leadership has said it is concerned after experts cautioned that the third wave could overlap with a predicted fourth wave.

Meanwhile, Gauteng this week surpassed the milestone of three million vaccines administered with a new record of over 75,000 inoculations on Friday.

Gauteng is seeing a consistent decrease in the number of new infections, hospital admissions, and active cases, however, the national infection rate has not seen decreased satisfactorily.

The Health Department’s Kwara Kekana said there’s still a long way to go.

” The milestone comes as the Gauteng provincial governments’ vaccination rollout program continues to expand through innovative partnerships government, civil society, care-based organisations retail and private sector. Additional vaccination sites are being opened and more sites operating during weekends for the convenience of those who are at work during the weekdays”.

Joburg Nurse Sells Negative Covid Certificates to Travellers

The Johannesburg-based nurse accused of selling fake negative Covid-19 certificates to people wishing to travel to other countries has been released on R3 000 bail.

The accused, Skhumbuzo Manana, 28, appeared in the Booysens Magistrate’s Court on Monday. He is accused of contravening the Medicines and Related Activities Act, as well as fraud, uttering (unlawfully and intentionally passing off a false document (forged) to the actual or potential prejudice of another), and possession of suspected stolen goods.

Manana was granted bail and his case was postponed until the 17th of September 2021 for further investigations.

Manana, who works as a nurse at the Parkhurst Clinic, allegedly sold fake Covid-19 negative test certificates for R500 to people wishing to travel to other countries. He allegedly did this without actually conducting the necessary testing or taking blood samples to confirm the individuals as covid negative.

Allegedly his customers sent him their ID numbers and, after a day or two, they would receive a message from the laboratory, indicating that they had tested negative for Covid-19.

A complaint was later laid against Manana with the Group Forensic and Investigation Services (GFIS) of the City of Joburg. He was consequently arrested on August 21 outside his home in Turffontein during a sting operation by members attached to the GFIS unit, in collaboration with the Johannesburg Metro Police Department.

The City is trying to track all those who bought certificates from him for questioning.

Vinpro VS Government Alcohol Ban in Court Today

The non-profit company Vinpro, representing 3,500 SA wine producers, will head to court on Monday (23 August) to fight the government’s ongoing alcohol ban and fully reopen the industry. Since the beginning of the national lockdown in March 2020, there has been four complete bans of alcohol.

Under the current adjusted level 3 lockdown, which came into effect on 26 July, the sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption is only permitted between 10h00 and 18h00 from Monday to Thursday. Alcohol sales for on-site consumption are however permitted as per licence conditions up to 20h00.

Vinpro is contesting the approach followed by the government towards alcohol restrictions within the Disaster Management Act. The case is scheduled to be heard in the Western Cape High Court from 23 to 26 August 2021.

“Since the start of this pandemic, we have argued that the provinces, not the national government, should decide whether or not to impose liquor restrictions and should do so with reference to provincial circumstances, including the need to preserve capacity in trauma units in hospitals in the province,” said Vinpro managing director Rico Basson.

“We know provinces are affected differently by the pandemic; therefore, we believe a differentiated approach in handling the crisis is needed to limit the economic impact of a lockdown.”

Vinpro already launched its legal application during the second wave of Covid-19 cases in January 2021 and has also approached the court to include evidence for how the blanket liquor ban missed its purpose during the third wave.

“While we have challenged the government’s decision by way of an urgent interdict application and hearing on 21 July 2021, the matter was subsequently rendered academic because the ban was partially lifted four days later.

“In an interim application, we now ask that this evidence should also be taken into account,” Basson said.

The government has strongly opposed its application to introduce such further evidence, arguing that it is moot as the ban has been partially lifted.

“However, we have seen how the government has dealt with the previous liquor bans. A blanket ban is imposed repeatedly, and with a fourth wave likely to hit the country in December, this issue most certainly is not moot,” said Basson.

“Wine is part of agriculture, as is tourism. Our industry supports 80,183 people working at farm level and 228,053 people working further down the wine value chain.”

According to Basson, the wine industry has built a strong brand reputation as a unique asset.

“The South African wine industry is more than a drink; it’s a livelihood. And it is our responsibility to make sure we save this industry for future generations.”

Did 80% of South Africans Already Have Covid

It is possible that as many as four out of five South Africans may have contracted the coronavirus, indicating that the country may be one of the world’s hardest-hit nations, said the chief actuary at Africa’s biggest health insurer.

Emile Stipp, the chief actuary at Discovery Health, based his calculations on the country’s case-fatality rate and the excess of deaths, a measure of the number of fatalities compared with a historical average.

They are thought to provide a more accurate picture of the impact of the pandemic than the official toll published by the governement.

“If we know the mortality rate of Covid, we can deduce the likely infection level,” Stipp said.

The current infection rate of between 70% and 80%, as estimated by Stipp, is very high by global standards and could push South Africa close to the so-called herd immunity, estimated at between 80% and 90% by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Still, it’s possible that the delta variant of the virus could reinfect those who have contracted earlier strains of the virus.

In England only 18% of blood donors had antibodies showing prior infection, Public Health England said in a report on 12 August 2021. This number jumped to 97% when those with antibodies from vaccinations were included. About 61% of England’s population is already fully inoculated, compared with 7.1% in South Africa.

Stipp said he based the assessment on the assumption that 90% of excess deaths reported by the South African Medical Research Council were due to Covid-19. The SAMRC estimates South Africa’s excess death number at 238,949 during the pandemic, compared with an official Covid-19 death toll of only 78,377. The country’s case fatality rate is standing at 3%.

South Africa also has the highest number of infections, with over 2.6 million confirmed, and deaths in Africa. It also has the most widespread testing and monitoring of causes of death.

In a presentation on the 13th of May to Satsa, a tourism body, Stipp estimated that 62.1% of South Africans had already contracted the virus – a number he’s since revised.

The Eastern Cape, where 91.1% of the population was believed to have been infected, was the worst-hit province, and Gauteng, at 43.4%, and North West, at 35%, the least-affected.

The latter two provinces have posted record pandemic-era excess deaths in the country’s third wave of infections, which is yet to subside.

Surveys of blood donors from January to May put South Africa’s overall prior infection rate at 42.8%.

Dr Susan Vosloo In Trouble With Medical Regulatory Bodies After Covid Video

Dr Susan Vosloo, the first woman heart surgeon in South Africa, in a video that surfaced last week, incorrectly claimed “the risk of the vaccine is worse than the risk of the virus”, and the vaccine’s composition was comparable to a trade secret.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa, more than 77 000 people have died from the disease. Over 9.5 million vaccines have been administered and to date no death has been reported due to vaccination or vaccine-related complications.

The composition of all vaccines administered in South Africa is also widely available and accessible through a quick Google search.

Dr Vicky Baillie, a researcher at the SA Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand, said Vosloo’s comments generated fear and doubt among South Africans.

According to Baillie, patients trust their doctors, but this trust is now being misplaced by Vosloo’s comments and claims. Vosloo shared information that was incorrect and gives credence to anti-vaxxers’ agendas. This puts lives at risk as more people avoid getting vaccinated.

Baillie said the information Vosloo shared had been completely discredited and she had been reported to numerous regulatory bodies for her actions.

“She needs to be publicly discredited but sadly, the damage is done and for months or even years, people will reference her when it comes to spreading misinformation.”

Infectious diseases expert and the group leader at the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform (KRISP) Dr Richard Lessells said that Vosloo’s comments were “tremendously disruptive”.

“Both in terms of the direct effect in influencing people, and also the indirect effect by doctors having to respond to these claims,” Lessells told News24.

“That takes them away from all the other work they are doing in the Covid-19 response. But it’s important that we do that so that the correct information is then shared widely.”

Professor Alex Welte from the SA Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis also joined the discussion discrediting Dr Vosloo.

“In this particular case, there were clearly false statements which probably were directly in conflict with ethical or legal requirements for doctors,” Welte told News24.

“The frontline response is to offer clear counter-evidence with minimal ad-hominem content – and this has already been done quite well by relevant experts.”

Dr Welte said that those people who have already been vaccinated had the power to change the narrative. He said those who got vaccinated could talk clearly in a day-to-day way about their choice and the reasoning behind it.

“This is not necessarily hugely impactful – but it adds up in the long run.”

Lessells added people should share their own experiences within their own networks.

“The more people realise that the vaccines are safe and are protecting people from getting severely unwell with Covid-19, the more trust is built up in the community.”

 

Covid-19 Patient Zero Info Revealed

A chief in the World Health Organization has allegedly admitted that the world’s first COVID-19 patient may have been infected after being bitten by a bat while working for a Wuhan laboratory in China.

Dr. Peter Embarek, who had initially dismissed the notion that the virus escaped from a lab as unlikely, now admitted that this is a very real possibility.  The shocking admission caused outcries around the world.
The coronavirus has destroyed lives and wrecked economies since it first came to light in 2019. Millions have died and new variants continue to emerge as wave after wave kills more people every day.

Dr Embarek led the World Health Organization probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in China. He reportedly suggests that a Chinese researcher could have been infected by a bat while taking samples in connection with research at a Wuhan lab.

By Thursday evening, the total global number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases exceeded 204.7 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University in the United States of America. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 4.32 million. Over 4.54 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

 

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