COVID-19 LIVE UPDATES | SA Covid-19 cases rise to 5,647 with no new deaths

30 April 2020 - 07:30 By TimesLIVE
President Cyril Ramaphosa tries on Personal Protective Equipment donated to South Africa's healthcare workers on 30 April 2020, at the Takealot warehouse in Kempton Park.
President Cyril Ramaphosa tries on Personal Protective Equipment donated to South Africa's healthcare workers on 30 April 2020, at the Takealot warehouse in Kempton Park.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

April 30 2020 - 21:12

MPs worried about R20bn Covid-19 funds for municipalities

MPs have raised concern about a lack of information on how municipalities are going to use the R20bn allocated to them to cushion the impact of Covid-19.

The National Assembly's portfolio committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) held a meeting on Thursday where the department of co-operative governance was set to brief MPs on how the R20bn allocation announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa would be spent.

April 30 2020 - 21:12

Western Cape Covid-19 hospital to be ready for patients in first week of June

The Covid-19 temporary hospital being set up at the Cape Town International Convention Centre is expected to be ready to admit patients as early as the first week of June, Western Cape head of emergency medicine Lee Wallis revealed.

Wallis, who addressed the media along with Western Cape premier Alan Winde, health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo and head of the provincial health department Keith Cloete on Thursday, said the 850-bed hospital would probably be the biggest and busiest hospital to care for Covid-19 patients in the Western Cape, if not in the country.

April 30 2020 - 20:47

Lockdown heightens risk of gender-based violence, says Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that as the country enters level 4 of the lockdown on Friday, government has determined that people providing services to gender-based violence survivors will be allowed to work.

“As with all people returning to work, they would need to adhere to strict health protocols and social distancing rules,” Ramaphosa said.

April 30 2020 - 19:42

300 new Covid-19 cases in SA, no new deaths recorded

The number of Covid-19 cases in SA has climbed to 5,647, the health ministry said on Thursday.

This was an increase of 297 cases from the day before. No new deaths were reported.

April 30 2020 - 19:42

No contact teaching at universities — but department launches ambitious online plan

The president’s national command council on Covid-19 has opted not to resume contact learning for the 2020 higher education academic year during level 4 of the lockdown.

The higher education and training department will, instead, embark on an ambitious plan to distribute learning devices and facilitate partnerships with data service providers to provide for some semblance of online learning.

April 30 2020 - 19:30

Covid-19 cases in correctional centres increase to 144

Three new cases of Covid-19 have been registered by the department of correctional services, bringing to 144 the number of cases in the country's prisons.

Department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said on Thursday that three officials in the Western Cape had tested positive for the virus.

April 30 2020 - 19:06

Nearly 1,000 schools vandalised since start of lockdown, food stolen

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has expressed deep concern that 962 schools had been vandalised since the start of the lockdown.

“In almost all the incidents, administration blocks and laboratories have been targeted, and ICT equipment has been stolen,” Motshekga said at a media briefing on Thursday.

April 30 2020 - 17:50

First pupils back at school on June 1: Motshekga

Schools will reopen on June 1 for grade 12 and grade 7 pupils.

This is according to basic education minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday. She was speaking at a press briefing alongside higher education minister Blade Nzimande. She stressed that these were "proposed dates".

"We were proposing that the sector goes back on May 4, next week Monday. For us to be ready, we need to open the sector so that the first group of officials go in and prepare," she said. 

She stressed this was a “proposed calendar that we are consulting around”.

April 30 2020 - 17:40

Please keep paying school fees: Motshekga

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday pleaded with parents to keep paying school fees, saying that this was important because these fees often covered governing body funded posts.

April 30 2020 - 17:25

Safety of learners and learners always came first: Motshekga

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga said on Thursday that safety of teachers and learners was the top priority.

"First priority was ensuring that, as a sector, we contribute towards the lowering of infections. We also ensure the safety of learners and educators, but also balance that around protecting the academic year of 2020 as much as possible," she said.

"In the past few weeks we have experienced major problems and there has been an increasing anxiety, understandably so, because we serve more than 13 million learners. Members of the community have been worried about when learners will be allowed back - if they are even to be allowed back," she said.

However, she said that any chance of saving the year would be about personal contact.

"If we are to save the year, the success will be in the classroom," she said.

Because of changing the dates of examinations, and cancelling the mid-year exams, there would not be over one million pupils writing the matric exams at the end of the year.

April 30 2020 - 17:10

2020 university year could continue into 2021

"The 2020 academic year will be re-organised to enable all our institutions and their students to complete academic requirements, with the prospects of extending into early 2021 depending on the epidemiology and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic threat," higher education minister Blade Nzimande said on Thursday.

He said that the completion of the academic year 2020 and the start of the 2021 academic year would be aligned with the plans of the basic education departent.

"Any plans to reopen universities for contact learning over coming months will necessarily have to be calibrated within national Covid-19 health and safety parameters, taking into account issues of physical distancing, biosafety, and other risks.

"As a result of highly uncertain and fluid social context imposed by the viral threat on every aspect of South African society, it is not possible to determine with any measure of certainty the dates when physical return to campuses for the bulk of our students will be possible," he added.

April 30 2020 - 17:05

NSFAS will continue to pay students: Nzimande

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande said on Thursday that "NSFAS funding for all students will continue while the academic year is underway", even under the lockdown.

"The likely extension of the academic year will require additional funding to maintain allowances for students while they complete the academic year. As a department, we are therefore working with NSFAS, in modelling these costs," he said.

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande at a media briefing on Thursday.
Higher education minister Blade Nzimande at a media briefing on Thursday.
Image: GCIS

April 30 2020 - 16:50

Education briefing on school and university opening begins

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande said that SA has entered "uncharted territory" in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic - and this impacted how universities must function.

"Firstly, whatever we do... our responsibility is to lower the infection curve. Secondly, we must save the 2020 year but not expense of lives. Thirdly, our efforts must avoid worsening the infection curve," he said.

"We have decided not to resume with campus-based academic activity, including all universities, TVET colleges, both private and public, during level 4 lockdown period. The only exception will be the controlled return of clinically-trained students, mostly medical students," he added.

Nzimande said that all campuses and institutions would undergo "deep cleaning and biosafety protocols to ensure readiness for eventual return of students and staff".

"We will be forging strong partnerships with both the departments of health and basic education to coordinate all efforts to successfully and safely implement the 2020 academic year and phasing in of the 2021 academic year," he said.

April 30 2020 - 16:04

WATCH | ‘What’s this nonsense!?’ South Africans stunned by cigarette ban U-turn

Capetonians spoke out about the ban on cigarettes announced by minister of co-operative governance & traditional affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on April 29 2020. This comes less than a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that cigarettes would be back on shelves across the country when the Covid-19 lockdown level is eased to level 4 on May 1 2020.

April 30 2020 - 15:50

Two pizzas and a spliff please: Interpol warns of lockdown drug deliveries

Criminal gangs are using fast-food couriers to deliver recreational drugs to people confined at home because of coronavirus lockdowns, policing agency Interpol said on Thursday.

Cocaine, marijuana, ketamine and ecstasy are among the drugs being moved in pizza boxes or other takeaway containers in countries including Ireland, Malaysia, Spain and Britain, Interpol said in a statement.

The agency issued a "purple notice" to warn its 194 member agencies of "this new modus operandi" involving couriers using bikes, motorcycles or cars.

With drug buyers and their dealers under lockdown along with the rest of society in many countries, some drivers are using this time to make a quick buck, while in some cases dealers simply posed as couriers.

- AFP

April 30 2020 - 15:45

April 30 2020 - 15:39

Italy to open two airports after nearly two-month shutdown

Italy said on Thursday it would reopen two of its shuttered airports next week, Ciampino in Rome and Peretola in Florence.

The two airports will reopen on May 4 for passenger flights, the transport ministry said in a brief statement.

Ciampino is Rome's secondary airport and is mostly used by low-cost carriers, while Peretola is Tuscany's second-largest airport after Pisa.

The two airports have been shut to passenger flights since March 13.

Italy's current coronavirus lockdown expires on May 4, when many restrictions remain but more people are expected to head back to work and travel within regions will be allowed under some circumstances.

- AFP

April 30 2020 - 15:31

Fort Hare to provide 12,000 student laptops

To help students with online remote learning, the University of Fort Hare is providing 12,000 laptops - on a loan-to-buy basis - which come with a modem and data to those who do not own the necessary devices.

University spokesperson Tandi Mapukata said online learning was necessary because of the disruption of the academic programme by the Covid-19 pandemic and the daily escalation of infection rates, particularly in the Eastern Cape, reports HeraldLIVE.

April 30 2020 - 15:25

Race-based assistance for tourism businesses lawful - but Solidarity to appeal

Solidarity on Thursday said it would urgently approach the Constitutional Court over whether the granting of relief to struggling businesses on the basis of race was constitutional.

The union said this decision follows a judgment by the high court in Pretoria on Thursday that the tourism department's decision to use race as a criterion for granting relief from the tourism relief fund — set up to assist tourism businesses affected by Covid-19 — is not unlawful.

April 30 2020 - 15:03

'No fast food drive-throughs allowed': Fikile Mbalula

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has dashed any hopes of being able to buy fast food from stores using the “drive-through” option.

Mbalula told MPs on Thursday that opening drive-throughs was not going to be allowed.

He was addressing the joint transport portfolio committee after the announcement earlier of new regulations under stage 4 of the national lockdown by co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

April 30 2020 - 14:45

Zwelinzima Vavi has recovered from a month of Covid-19

Labour movement leader Zwelinzima Vavi has recovered from Covid-19.

Vavi, who was admitted to hospital after contracting Covid-19 earlier this month, released a video on Twitter on Thursday in which he updated South Africans on his wellbeing.

Last week, the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) leader announced that he would test for Covid-19 for the third time after his second test came out positive.

April 30 2020 - 14:40

Are gyms legally entitled to keep debiting members' accounts during lockdown?

Under lockdown, gym members are no longer rating their fitness clubs on their facilities, trainers or range of classes but on one thing only — whether they are freezing their memberships at no cost.

Virgin Active, the country’s biggest fitness company by far, with more than 130 clubs, led the way in announcing that all memberships would automatically be frozen during the lockdown. No debit orders were processed this month.

April 30 2020 - 14:28

Groote Schuur temporarily shuts two labs after 15 workers contract Covid-19

One of the biggest laboratories in the country has seen a total of 15 lab technicians test positive for Covid-19.

National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) spokesperson Mzimasi Gcukumana confirmed that two labs at Groote Schuur hospital have been temporarily closed after 15 technicians tested positive for Covid-19.

“The 15 staff members are all from the clinical pathology and haematology laboratories and were not involved in Covid-19 testing,” Gcukumana said.

April 30 2020 - 13:52

Covid-19 'kills' Cosmopolitan publisher founded by Jane Raphaely

Covid-19 has plunged a dagger into the heart of magazine publisher Associated Media, CEO Julia Raphaely said on Thursday.

Raphaely — daughter of Jane Raphaely, who founded the company in Cape Town in 1982 — said the company would cease trading on Friday.

Its magazine stable comprises Cosmopolitan, House & Leisure, Good Housekeeping and Women on Wheels.

April 30 2020 - 13:52

Ready to jog or cycle outdoors? This tool shows how far you can venture

South Africans are allowed to run, walk and cycle close to home under level 4 lockdown rules from Friday — and this tool shows exactly how far you can venture.

Co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Wednesday that this type of exercise would be allowed, up to 5km from home and only between 6am and 9am.

April 30 2020 - 13:05

When Covid-19 rips a family apart, only tears follow

The coronavirus can be as heartbreaking as it is deadly. No-one knows that better 80-year-old Mzimkhulu Mfama, who this week lost his wife of more than 30 years to Covid-19.

Ntomboxolo Mfama, 69, died at Grey Hospital in King William’s Town on Tuesday, leaving behind Mzimkhulu who himself is battling to overcome the effects of the virus.

Compounding the already tragic situation is that the widower’s grandchildren, aged five and 13, have been taken away by government officials. They, too, have Covid-19.

April 30 2020 - 13:02

Swedish town uses chicken manure to help stop spread of coronavirus

A town in southern Sweden has turned to a traditional source to try to prevent the coronavirus spreading during an annual festive event on Thursday - chicken manure.

The university town of Lund began spreading chicken droppings in its central park to put off would-be revellers who would usually come on April 30 to celebrate Walpurgis Night.

The occasion, marking the shift away from dark, chilly winter days towards brighter spring and summer days, is typically celebrated with picnics, parties and bonfires across the country, and regularly attracts thousands of students.

April 30 2020 - 13:00

'Keeping your rent today can mean buying groceries tomorrow': Rent Strike SA

Lobby group Rent Strike SA is calling on the government to proclaim a rental moratorium for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown - and on banks to freeze home loans with no interest added.

However, property experts have cautioned that this could hurt people in the same communities.

Rent Strike SA is also calling on the government to reduce rates and taxes during the lockdown.

April 30 2020 - 11:45

Mzansi on level 4 lockdown: 'How is this logical?'

South Africans continue to flood social media with questions and concerns following co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's address on Wednesday.

The minister detailed gazetted regulations that will take effect on Friday when SA moves from "hard" lockdown to level 4 lockdown.

This means that some economic activity will resume, with more than 1-million South Africans expected to return to work.

April 30 2020 - 11:45

Top lawyers threaten legal action over powers of Covid-19 command council

Two top lawyers have written to President Cyril Ramaphosa seeking clarity on the structure and powers of the national command council (NCC) on coronavirus.

The nine-page letter by Luqmaan Hassan on behalf of advocates Nazeer Cassim SC and Erin Richards expresses the pair's concerns over “possible risks of constitutional and democratic malfunctions arising from what appears to be the questionable establishment, structure and functions of the NCC, as well as the noticeable lack of transparency from government about the body”.

April 30 2020 - 11:44

What you need to know about the R350 unemployment grant and how to apply for it

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu has outlined the process of applications for the Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant for individuals who are unemployed.

The grant forms part of the R500bn economic and social relief measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week to support the economy and save jobs and businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Qualifying applicants will receive R350 a month over the next six months, from May until October.

April 30 2020 - 11:32

'The need is massive,' say donors as 3km Centurion food queue shocks SA

Residents of Mooiplaas and Spruit informal settlements in Centurion, north of Johannesburg, came out in numbers to collect food hampers on Wednesday, forming a queue 3km long.

While 8,000 food hampers were handed out, this is just a drop in the ocean, said social activist Yusuf Abramjee.

“The need for food is massive. More than 80% of this community are foreigners and they have not received any help from government. We are happy we made a small difference,” he said.

April 30 2020 - 10:41

Poor black Americans more vulnerable to Covid-19, New York study finds

Poor black people who contract Covid-19 are more likely to end up in hospital and die, a study in New York City has found.

Researchers in the epicentre of the pandemic in the US found that the Bronx - the borough with the highest proportion of racial and ethnic minorities, the most people living in poverty and the lowest levels of education - had higher rates of hospitalisation and death related to Covid-19 than the city's other four boroughs.

Hospitalisation and death rates were lowest in Manhattan, the most affluent borough, where the population is mainly white.

April 30 2020 - 09:47

'Coronavirus is the last thing to worry about while looking for gold deep inside a mine'

When the national lockdown was announced in March, informal miner Fadzi Manono was underground and digging for gold at a mine in Benoni.

When he returned to his home in Springs a week later, Manono says he was informed that police and soldiers were “all over the place” to see that residents remained in their homes to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Manono, who moved to SA from Zimbabwe, said he decided to return to the mine to work for another week. “Coronavirus is the last thing to worry about while looking for gold deep inside a mine ... It was an opportunity to make more money,” he said.

April 30 2020 - 09:45

Russia's coronavirus case tally passes 100,000 with record daily rise

Russia on Thursday reported 7,099 new cases of the novel coronavirus, a record daily rise, bringing its nationwide tally to 106,498.

The official nationwide death toll rose to 1,073 after 101 people with the virus died in the last 24 hours, Russia's coronavirus crisis response centre said.

-REUTERS

April 30 2020 - 08:41

Politicians oppose proposed plan to reopen schools

Politicians have opposed the plan to reopen schools in SA, saying it is a rushed decision.

On Wednesday, the department of basic education announced that grade 7 and 12 pupils may be going back to school on May 18.

April 30 2020 - 08:36

Students and landlords struggle with rents during Covid-19 lockdown

While some frustrated students are being asked to fork out for rent at month-end despite the lockdown, landlord Pumla Mgidi has taken a different approach and allowed her tenants to take a payment break.

The 74-year-old from Block H in Soshanguve, Pretoria, has frozen rent payments for her student tenants, who are studying at the Tshwane University of Technology.

But this means that Mgidi has lost about R8,500 a month due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

April 30 2020 - 08:25

Tobacco association heads to court to challenge ban on cigarette sales

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) is planning to take legal action against the government over the ban on the sale of cigarettes.

The decision comes after cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana-Dlamini-Zuma's announcement on Wednesday evening that the sale of cigarettes would not be allowed under level 4 restrictions of the lockdown.

Her announcement came a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa said the sale of cigarettes would be allowed.

April 30 2020 - 08:00

Informal traders must be included in R500bn relief, says alliance

Informal traders should be included as beneficiaries of the socio-economic measures worth R500bn that were announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, the South African Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) said on Wednesday.

The association, which represents the interests of about 2 million informal traders, said the lockdown from March 27 has caused unbearable strain to informal traders as they lost the opportunity to make income since then.

The association said since Ramaphosa's first speech announcing the lockdown, he had promised that the government would look into how it could help informal traders, but said nothing has materialised 32 days into the lockdown.

April 30 2020 - 07:34

Smokers livid as ciggies banned under level 4 lockdown

Smokers are fuming over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's announcement on Wednesday night that the sale of cigarette and tobacco products will not be allowed under level 4 of lockdown, which will start on Friday.

The co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) minister said the sale of cigarettes was opposed by about 2,000 people who engaged the government on the lockdown regulations.

“We took into consideration and debated the matter and decided that we must continue as we are when it comes to cigarettes and tobacco products and we shouldn't open up the sale,” said the minister, adding that the reason for the continued ban is “health-related.”

April 30 2020 - 07:25

Over 270,000 South Africans sign petition against ban on cigarette sales

Over 270,000 South Africans have signed a petition against the ban on the sale of cigarettes, while the tobacco industry prepares to mount a legal challenge.

In response to the government's apparent U-turn on Wednesday night, the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) said: "Consulting with our attorneys and senior counsel on the urgent court application first thing in the morning. Let a court of law adjudicate on this issue once and for all."

The petition, started by Bev McClean, was started when smokers were given one day's notice of the ban ahead of the lockdown on March 27.

April 30 2020 - 07:00

Wits experts suggest healthy people under 50 be allowed out of lockdown

With the country on the brink of an adjusted lockdown, two local experts have proposed a model in which healthy people below 50 would basically come out of lockdown, while those above 50 would remain at home.

It is a “hybrid” approach that falls somewhere between the hard lockdown we have seen so far, and the “herd immunity” approach adopted in the early days of the pandemic by the UK.

April 30 2020 - 07:00

Mzansi responds to school plan: 'Cancel 2020 academic year'

South Africans have expressed concerns about the department of basic education's readiness to resume its academic activities on May 18, following a virtual address by the department's director-general Mathanzima Mweli.

Pupils in grades 7 and 12 will be the first to be phased in. 

Addressing parliament's basic education oversight committee, Mweli detailed protective measures put in place to ensure the safety of pupils, teachers and other staff.

April 30 2020 - 06:30

Campaign demands water for dozens more communities

The South African Food Sovereignty Campaign has called for the withdrawal of charges against 10 leaders from Coastal Links, who were arrested on April 14 when they convened to discuss how to meet the water needs of the Centane area in the Eastern Cape.

The campaign also wants dozens of parts of the Eastern Cape and Limpopo to be treated as drought disaster areas. It says small-scale farmers in those communities should be given urgent support to ensure farming continues.

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