COVID-19 WRAP | Covid-19 cases edging closer to 9,000 mark & teachers told not to return to school just yet

08 May 2020 - 06:39 By TimesLIVE

May 8 2020 - 22:23

663 new Covid-19 cases and 17 deaths in SA in biggest single-day jump

SA's confirmed Covid-19 cases increased to 8,895, a single-day increase of 663. There were also 17 new deaths reported, taking the toll to 178.

These were the biggest single-day increases reported since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

Of the deaths, there were nine from the Western Cape, three each in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, and two from KwaZulu-Natal.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize made the figures available in a statement on Friday night. They were based on 15,599 tests.

May 8 2020 - 21:05

Don't report to school on Monday, education departments tell principals

Five provincial education departments have asked principals and other members of school management teams (SMTs) not to report for duty on Monday, while the remaining four provinces are expected to follow suit.

The Western Cape, North West and KwaZulu-Natal informed SMTs on Friday afternoon to remain at home, while the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape sent out circulars on Thursday.

SMTs were scheduled to return to work on Monday, while teachers were expected back on May 18.

The North West education department's head of department, Stepinah Semaswe, informed officials and teachers that the department “has not met the set preconditions to contain the transmission of Covid-19 in schools due to circumstances beyond our control”.

She advised SMTs not to report for duty until further notice.

May 8 2020 - 20:54

Correctional services department records five new Covid-19 cases

The correctional services department has recorded five new cases of Covid-19.

Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the number of cases was sitting at 177.

“DCS continues to provide support to both officials and inmates who test positive to Covid-19,” Nxumalo said.

May 8 2020 - 19:18

Covid-19 kills second Western Cape nurse as deaths hit 87

A second nurse has died of Covid-19 in the Western Cape, premier Alan Winde said on Friday.

Ntombizakithi Ngidi, a nurse at Tygerberg Hospital, was one of 11 new victims reported on Friday, taking the provincial death toll to 87 (up 14.4%).

“This is the second nurse we have lost to Covid-19 in the province, following the death last week of Petronella Benjamin, who was one day away from her retirement,” said Winde.

His statement came as confusion reigned in the ANC about a call for the return of full lockdown in the Western Cape.

In a statement to the media, the opposition party's local government spokesperson in the provincial legislature, Danville Smith, said infection hotspots needed particular attention.

May 8 2020 - 18:37

Hairdressers want to open their doors again as virus slashes incomes

Hairdressers are lobbying for a return to work as their financial losses mount during the coronavirus lockdown.

Beauty salons do not form part of the essential service list as per the national disaster regulations, but the industry — which by its nature involves fairly intimate contact — is hoping that will change.

And they have an ally in lawyer Carlo Viljoen, who told TimesLIVE that he had submitted court papers.

May 8 2020 - 18:13

Government could face another legal challenge to lockdown regulations

Government could face another legal challenge over its lockdown regulations.

Attorneys for civil rights group DearSA have written a letter to co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma challenging the ban on online retailing and the limitation on the hours people are allowed to exercise outside their homes.

The organisation said it had requested that the government amend the Covid-19 lockdown regulations to allow for all forms of online retailing on the grounds that this would support, rather than impede, the campaign to stop the spread of the virus.

May 8 2020 - 17:53

Italy tops 30,000 coronavirus deaths, new cases edge down

Italy on Friday became the third country in the world to record 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus, reporting 243 new fatalities compared with a daily tally of 274 the day before.

Italy's total death toll from Covid-19 since its outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 30,201, the Civil Protection Agency said. Only the United States and Britain have seen more deaths from the virus.

The daily number of new infections fell slightly to 1,327 from 1,401 on Thursday, taking the total of confirmed cases since the epidemic began to 217,185, the third highest global tally behind those of the United States and Spain.

- Reuters

May 8 2020 - 17:23

Some White House staff to wear masks after valet tests positive - Trump

US President Donald Trump on Friday said certain White House staff members have started wearing face masks, one day after the White House said his personal valet had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Trump, asked whether those who serve him food would now cover their faces, told Fox News in an interview that such White House staff had made that change.

"They've already started," he said on the network's "Fox and Friends" morning programme.

May 8 2020 - 16:27

Show us the minutes for all lockdown decisions, DA demands

The DA wants to know exactly how government has made its lockdown decisions, party leader John Steenhuisen said on Friday.

To this end, the official opposition said it had filed a Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) application.

Steenhuisen said: “It is crucial that we all know exactly why, according to government, we’re still in this destructive lockdown. Every decision is shrouded in secrecy. We are told to blindly trust a body called the national command council — a small group of cabinet ministers who don’t answer to parliament or anyone else."

May 8 2020 - 16:25

KZN education department puts back-to-school plans on hold

The KwaZulu-Natal department of education has announced a postponement of the return date for teachers in the province.

This after the national department of education planned to have school management teams (SMTs) and principals back at school on Monday May 11 and the rest of the teaching staff back on May 18.

In a communique on Friday, head of department Enock Nzama said that due to unforeseen circumstances, schools and district officers needed to postpone the reopening.

May 8 2020 - 16:17

Do prisoners Oscar Pistorius and Janusz Waluś qualify for release?

Convicted murderers Oscar Pistorius and Janusz Waluś are not eligible to join the 19,000 prisoners who will be considered for parole in the next few weeks.

“Both will not qualify to apply because the offences they have been found guilty of fall within the category of exclusions as per the president’s proclamation,” justice minister Ronald Lamola said on Friday.

The mass release of prisoners was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa's office on Friday as the government moved to reduce overcrowding in the country's prisons during the coronavirus pandemic.

May 8 2020 - 15:40

Cigarette ban will ease pressure on health system, help social distancing, say experts

The ban on cigarettes sales has slowed the spread of Covid-19 and will ease pressure on the health system, a panel of experts found.

A study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) found that while illicit cigarettes continued to be sold, a majority of smokers had no access to them, leading to a number of gains against the pandemic.

May 8 2020 - 15:29

Western Cape Covid-19 infections out of control, warns economist

The biggest numerical leap so far in confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Western Cape has coincided with a report saying the disease is "essentially out of control" in the province.

Cases increased by 535 (13%) to 4,584 on Friday, meaning the Western Cape now has 56% of all detected infections nationally, even though it has only 15% of the population.

May 8 2020 - 15:27

Old, sick and female inmates with infants first in line for 'coronavirus parole' in SA

Female prisoners with infants and elderly and sick inmates will be considered first for parole as the justice ministry tries to reduce the country's prison population.

This as authorities try to contain the spread of coronavirus among prisoners in SA.

May 8 2020 - 15:12

'Lockdown will cost more lives than it can save - end it': DA's Steenhuisen

DA leader John Steenhuisen on Friday called for an end to the national lockdown.

Steenhuisen said he had withdrawn his support of the lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March, and criticised the regulations.

“The real tragedy playing out here is no longer the coronavirus, 

May 8 2020 - 14:50

WATCH | Virtual game drives keep safari companies afloat by attracting millions during lockdown

People travel from all around the world to SA to experience “the safari life” and, of course, to see the Big 5.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, countries went into lockdown and international flights were halted, leaving the African safari industry without income.

May 8 2020 - 14:26

Need for Covid-19 tests is outpacing capacity of SA's labs

Delays of up to seven days for Covid-19 test results have been brought to the attention of President Cyril Ramaphosa, Western Cape premier Alan Winde said on Friday.

“In the acute hospital setting and for health-care workers, we cannot afford to wait that long for test results,” he said. “Yesterday, I wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding the backlogs being experienced in the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS).”

May 8 2020 - 14:26

Covid-19: Quarantine wards set up at Tshwane hospital

Two wards at the Tshwane District Hospital in Pretoria have been set up to handle Covid-19 patients as part of the roll out of facilities to treat those infected with the virus, the Gauteng infrastructure development department said.

MEC Tasneem Motara has so far “ “inspected eight construction sites for special Covid-19 quarantine wards in  health facilities across the province in anticipation of the expected severe Covid-19 cases that might require hospitalisation and self-quarantine”, the department said.

May 8 2020 - 14:19

Release of prisoners will make a massive difference, says Lamola

Lamola said that the release of the inmates under parole would make a huge difference, even though prisons would nonetheless be overcrowded once it was completed.

He said all measures put in place “gave space” to the department in curbing the spread of the virus.

Lamola said that the outbreaks in prisons at this stage have taken place at prisons that are “small centres by our standards”.

“If this befalls us in the Johannesburg Correctional Facility… it will also be a huge burden to the department of health to test more than 9,000 people, both inmates and officials. Also in Pollsmor and Durban Westville,” he said.

He said the “big centres” were:

  • St Albans Medium A in the Eastern Cape, which had 1,683 inmates and a bed capacity of 706;
  • Johannesburg Medium A in Gauteng, which has 6,609 inmates and a bed capacity of 2,630;
  • Kgosi Mampuru in Gauteng which has 3,833 inmates and a bed capacity of 2,171;
  • Pollsmoor Medium B in the Western Cape which has 953 inmates and a bed capacity of 437; and
  • Durban Medium A in KwaZulu-Natal which has 4,102 inmates and a bed capacity of 2,501.

May 8 2020 - 14:11

WATCH | Cancer girl back with dad after two months 'visiting' through the kitchen window

Well, here's some good news for your Friday morning.

A four-year-old girl in the UK has been reunited with her father after they spent two months apart in lockdown.

May 8 2020 - 14:09

Covid-19 positive taxi driver bust on the road charged with attempted murder

Western Cape police have arrested a 35-year-old taxi driver who tested positive for Covid-19 and then got back behind the wheel to take passengers to the Eastern Cape.

The man was stopped at a vehicle checkpoint on the R61 in Beaufort West en route to the Eastern Cape on Thursday, said Brig Novela Potelwa.

May 8 2020 - 14:05

We understand the fears, says Lamola

Justice minister Ronald Lamola said that government was aware of the “concerns” around releasing inmates early.

“We are not oblivious to the concerns of society towards releasing offenders before their sentence expiry dates. We arrived at this decision after careful consideration of facts before us. This measure is aimed at protecting the entire spectrum of South Africa from the Covid-19 pandemic, we cannot afford to falter, and we must flatten the curve and preserve lives,” he said.

Lamola said it was a “conditional parole”.

“Should the parolees display behaviour that is in conflict with the law and erodes public confidence on their rehabilitation, we will not hesitate to revoke their parole and incarcerate them.

“We know of parolees who violated their conditions of release and caused unbearable pain to society by committing heinous crimes,” he said.

Earlier, Lamola said that of the 14,647 inmates who were released in the remission of sentences announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in December, “99% have not violated their parole conditions”.

“It is only a fraction that undermined our efforts and re-offended; they are 50 in total. The law has already dealt with them expeditiously and harshly,” he said.

Justice minister Ronald Lamola on Friday announced that 19,000 inmates would benefit from a special Covid-19 parole process.
Justice minister Ronald Lamola on Friday announced that 19,000 inmates would benefit from a special Covid-19 parole process.
Image: GCIS

May 8 2020 - 14:00

Paroles needed due to severe overcrowding: Lamola

SA’s prisons are 32.58% overcrowded, justice minister Ronald Lamola said on Friday.

Speaking at briefing where it was announced that 19,000 inmates would be released on parole, the minister said that there were 157,208 inmates across the country, “whereas our accommodation capacity is 118,572”.

“Our accommodation capacity is exceeded by 38,636 inmates,” he said.

Citing the World Health Organisation, he said that prisons across the world can expect “huge mortality rates” from Covid-19 due to overcrowding.

“This is attributed to the fact that the virus spreads quicker in closed spaces. Another exacerbating factor is that some of the inmates already have compromised immune system, as a result of chronic conditions. This makes them more vulnerable to Covid-19 and it can have a catastrophic effect to inmates, officials, communities around correctional centres as well as the broader public,” he said.

He said that many countries - including Turkey, France, Iran and others - have released inmates, and that SA was doing the same.

“It is against this background that we requested and got approval from president Ramaphosa to place selected categories of low risk offenders in the community corrections system. In line with Section 82 (1) of the Correctional Services Act, President Ramaphosa has authorised the consideration of parole for selected low risk qualifying sentenced offenders who have or will reach their Minimum Detention Periods within five years.

“Placement on parole will be a decision of the parole boards, the president’s decision only allow that these low risk offenders be considered for parole by the parole boards,” said Lamola.

Those who are the “most vulnerable” - those who have underlying health problems who are older than 60 and female offenders with infants - will be prioritised.

“Approximately 19,000 inmates across the country will benefit from this decision, provided they meet requirements of the parole board. They will be considered on a case by case basis and those who qualify will be placed on parole after all the due processes, including Victim Offender Dialogues, have accordingly unfolded,” said the minister.

May 8 2020 - 13:50

Lamola outlines inmates who won't be paroled under Covid-19 measures

Justice minister Ronald Lamola has outlined the inmates who won’t be paroled under the Covid-19 physical distancing measures, saying the same rules would be applied to those who received special dispensation announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in December.

These were inmates serving sentences for:

  • sexual offences;
  • child abuse;
  • murder;
  • attempted murder;
  • armed robbery;
  • sedition;
  • high treason;
  • sabotage; and
  • terrorism.

Also, offenders “declared as dangerous by the court in terms of Section 286 A of the Criminal Procedure Act, 51 of 1977, offenders sentenced to life imprisonment, violations under the Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act No 116 of 1998)”.

Those who “escaped or absconded”, or who “evaded the justice system after being released on bail” also wouldn’t qualify - and neither would “those certified as mentally ill and detained in accordance with the Mental Health Act of 2002 (Act 17 of 2002)”.

“The same category of exclusions applies to this Covid-19 parole dispensation we are announcing”.

May 8 2020 - 13:38

Impossible to create physical distancing in prisons: Lamola

Justice minister Ronald Lamola said on Friday that because of the lockdown, many institutions were closing off their facilities and making sure people were staying at home rather than congregating in groups at workplaces and in other settings.

“This is not something the department of correctional services can do with ease, simply because the interest of justice and society demand the complete opposite from us,” he said.

He said the department’s Covid-19 strategy involved “prevention, containment, treatment and recovery”.

“We are confronted, however, with the glaring impossibility of maintaining physical distancing in our centres due to overcrowding,” he said.

Lamola said that the department’s Covid-19 preventative measures were “stretched to the brink”.

“We have managed thus far, but the spread of the virus continues. We ought to act decisively and prevent this invisible killer from rapidly multiplying in our centres. We convey our gratitude in this regard to the officials of correctional services who held the fort thus far in managing the spread of the virus in our centres,” he said.

Lamola said that, by May 7, there were 172 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in correctional services.

May 8 2020 - 13:28

Euthanasia for horses as lockdown cripples racing industry in SA

South African horse racing faces a dire financial crisis with 60,000 jobs on the line and desperate owners turning to euthanasia as the industry is hammered by the lockdown.

Difficult decisions are having to be made around retrenchments. About 400 horses per month face the prospect of being euthanised, and some have already been put down.

May 8 2020 - 13:02

19,000 more prisoners will be paroled to ease jail overcrowding

Just under 19,000 inmates out of a population of 155,000 will be placed on parole as a measure to combat the spread of Covid-19 in correctional facilities, which are considered high-risk areas for infection.

This was announced by the office of President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday.

May 8 2020 - 13:02

253 police officers have tested positive for Covid-19

In the same way the coronavirus has rattled essential service providers like doctors and nurses, the police service has not been spared.

Police minister Bheki Cele on Friday revealed that the current number of police officers who had tested positive for the virus was 253 across the country.

May 8 2020 - 12:57

New evidence shows children aren't spreaders so we're harming them by keeping schools shut, says Wits prof

We are “indirectly putting childrens' lives and futures on the line” by keeping schools shut, said Wits University vaccinology and infectious disease expert Prof Shabir Madhi, noting that new evidence shows that children are insignificant spreaders of the virus.

He said children generally do not get sick even when infected, they do not have a high viral load, and they hardly spread it to older generations.

May 8 2020 - 12:34

Moving home in lockdown: all you need to know about latest concession

The government’s “you can move house until June 7” concession will come as a relief for those who’ve been financially compromised by the ban on relocating during lockdown. But the wording is too restrictive, says the removals company which made it happen.

The concession was announced by means of publishing new regulations in the government gazette late on Thursday.

May 8 2020 - 11:56

LISTEN | Is your social media use becoming a problem?

The national lockdown has seen a marked increase in social media use among South Africans. The restrictions have led to people interacting and keeping themselves busy by tweeting, liking, commenting, sharing and being much more active on social media. 

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, these social media platforms have also highlighted a few behavioural changes such as social media users practising healthy eating and exercising on Instagram. There has also been a surge in arguments and debates trending on Twitter, binge watching of videos and consumption of content on YouTube. 

May 8 2020 - 11:49

Gauteng records 1,197 Covid-19 recoveries and 15 deaths

Gauteng's health department said on Friday morning the province had recorded 1,197 recoveries by people who had been infected with Covid-19.

Health MEC Bandile Masuku confirmed that the province had recorded 15 deaths.

May 8 2020 - 11:21

Pineapple beer draws even 'smartest of gentlemen driving fancy cars'

The road to Lungile’s* shack in the informal settlement of Tsakane in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, is bumpy and flooded with mud from recent rains.

Away from police scrutiny, she is doing a roaring trade in pineapple beer (mbamba) during the lockdown.

May 8 2020 - 11:16

Covid-19 in Gauteng: David Makhura on testing, food relief and being responsible

Gauteng premier David Makhura on Thursday spoke at a weekly provincial command council about the efforts made to combat the spread of Covid-19.

This is what you need to know:

Screening during 'grace week'

Citizens were given a week's grace (May 1-7) to travel between provinces without permits. Makhura said at least 90,000 tests were done during this period.

“More than half a million people moved into Gauteng. In those roadblocks, there was lots of screening and testing. ”

May 8 2020 - 11:13

Amsterdam restaurant to defy virus with its 'quarantine greenhouses'

The spread of the coronavirus has seen a restaurant in Amsterdam, Netherlands, come up with a unique way to help its customers ease back into eating out by introducing quarantine greenhouses to maintain social distancing.

Mediamatic Eten is testing the new arrangement with family and friends of staff members, and will take customers from June. It is already fully booked.

May 8 2020 - 10:39

Provinces vent as Covid-19 cases from Western to Eastern Cape jump to 80

Eighty people travelling to the Eastern Cape from the Western Cape have tested positive for Covid-19.

This was 24 more than the figure released earlier in the day, according to the Eastern Cape health department which on Thursday night revealed the updated totals, reports DispatchLIVE.

May 8 2020 - 9:41

Faithful undeterred at Ramadan, even as virus spreads in Somalia

Adan Abdullahi knows that visiting the mosque for evening prayers is forbidden. There is a curfew in place in the Somali capital, and authorities have pleaded with worshippers to stay home as coronavirus infections rise.

But it is the holy month of Ramadan -- one coinciding with a deadly outbreak that has officially claimed 39 lives but likely hundreds more in under-resourced Somalia -- and Abdullahi can think of no better time for faith, so refuses to follow the rule.

"When disaster strikes, you go to the mosque and pray so that Allah solves your predicament," the 42-year-old father-of three told AFP in Mogadishu.

But elsewhere in the city, as containment measures are ignored or half-heartedly enforced, graves are furiously being dug to accommodate a spike in unexplained deaths.

Known cases of coronavirus have jumped 14-fold since mid April to 873 but government officials suspect the true toll is vastly higher due to a lack of testing. 

AFP

May 8 2020 - 9:30

May 8 2020 - 8:18

May 8 2020 - 8:00

Fears of what will happen if new hospital has to admit virus victims

Final construction of a vital KZN facility is just weeks away.

But it may have to stop amid worries about an influx of Covid-19 patients.

May 8 2020 - 7:44

The Home Away from Home organisation is helping to repatriate South Africans from all over the world

South Africans stranded abroad have a lifeline in the group Home Away From Home [HAFH]. 

Through WhatsApp and a Facebook page, the group works as a database for about 1,445 South Africans trying to make it back home.

The group works to keep everyone informed of their situation and help members find the appropriate authorities in the respective country they're in and in SA to make it happen. They also provide trauma counselling and help find locals to host those stranded until they can be repatriated.

May 8 2020 - 7:00

Call to alms: the needy were asked to feed the hungry, and this happened

On lockdown day 34 a group of NGOs dared to ask the very people in dire need to donate towards feeding the needy. 

May 8 2020 - 7:00

WATCH | Jobless and stranded in SA: Lesotho informal workers left in limbo during lockdown

Informal part-time work is the bread and butter of many foreign migrant workers. They travel to SA to look for jobs, work for a few months and head back home with some money for themselves and their families.

 

May 8 2020 - 6:55

“We don’t think at this point, given the totality of evidence, that it is reasonable to routinely give this drug to patients”

The study published Thursday is the largest to date to investigate the drug, which is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat malaria and certain autoimmune disorders, as a treatment for COVID-19

May 8 2020 - 6:50

Coronavirus found in men's semen

A team at Shangqiu Municipal Hospital tested 38 male patients treated there at the height of the pandemic in China, in January and February.

About 16% of them had evidence of the coronavirus in their semen, the team reported in the journal JAMA Network Open.

About a quarter of them were in the acute stage of infection and nearly 9% of them were recovering, the team reported.

"We found that SARS-CoV-2 can be present in the semen of patients with COVID-19, and SARS-CoV-2 may still be detected in the semen of recovering patients," Diangeng Li of Chinese People's Liberation Army General Hospital in Beijing and colleagues wrote.

May 8 2020 - 6:36

May 8 2020 - 6:08

Covid-19 positive? Wits University wants you, your blood and your saliva!

If you are a survivor of the virus, these things are vital in helping save the lives of thousands.

May 8 2020 - 6:00

WATCH | 'I saved David Mabuza's life and I'd do it again,' says Jacob Zuma

May 8 2020 - 6:00

Top SA virologist's warning on Covid-19

Most people will catch Covid-19 but the majority will not get seriously ill, says one of SA’s top virologists.

Efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus could already be helping to reduce other illnesses, such as influenza, said Wolfgang Preiser, head of medical virology at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg National Health Laboratory Service.

“Ultimately most people will get [Covid-19], hopefully over many months to a few years and not all at once, and most will have mild disease and recover without problems,” he said.

May 8 2020 - 5:00

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