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COVID-19 LIVE WRAP | Red berets want 'racial breakdown' of Covid-19' statistics & SA records 1,673 new cases

27 May 2020 - 07:55 By TimesLIVE
People run past the two face goddess Morphous by artist Lionel Smit along the Mouilli Point promenade​. When the country moves to level 3 lockdown on June 1 then people will be allowed to exercise anytime during the day.
People run past the two face goddess Morphous by artist Lionel Smit along the Mouilli Point promenade​. When the country moves to level 3 lockdown on June 1 then people will be allowed to exercise anytime during the day.

May 28 2020 - 22:28

Biggest single-day increase as SA records 1,673 new Covid-19 cases

In what is the biggest single-day increase to date, 1,673 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in South Africa in the last 24 hours.

The country went from 24,264 cases on Tuesday to 25,937 cases on Wednesday.

The death toll jumped from 524 to 552 - and increase of 28 deaths.

May 27 2020 - 21:10

KZN premier calls for further debate before SA accepts money from IMF

ANC KwaZulu-Natal chair Sihle Zikalala has called for an open discussion before South Africa turns to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to sustain its ailing economy as a result of the Covid-19 impact.

“The current argument is that the IMF is offering us a loan with no conditions, that it is at a reasonable rate and therefore we must go for that,” he said.

Zikalala acceded that the impact of the pandemic of the economy threatens to drag the country's economy deeper into recession. However, he remained adamant that other options should be explored before the IMF.

May 27 2020 - 21:08

'Lab error' means SABC employee who tested positive for Covid-19 was actually negative

After releasing a precautionary communiqué on a positive Covid-19 case at its KwaZulu-Natal office, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has announced that the employee was in fact negative.

The SABC on Tuesday said it was closing the office as a precaution after the employee's test results. However, there was seemingly an error at the laboratory and the employee was actually negative.

May 27 2020 - 20:34

Storm in parliament as EFF demands 'racial breakdown' of Covid-19 stats

The EFF on Wednesday caused a storm in the first National Assembly sitting since the Covid-19 lockdown by demanding that health minister Zweli Mkhize provide a “racial breakdown” of all people who have contracted coronavirus.

MP Naledi Chirwa wanted to know “how many black people have been infected and how many have died”, as well as “how many white people have been infected and how many have died”.

While the minister was attending to the question, Chirwa interjected, demanding nothing but “numbers”.

May 27 2020 - 19:42

Take your umhlonyane, but no evidence it can cure Covid-19: Mkhize

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has reacted to the use of umhlonyane to defeat flu, saying indeed this was true as he also grew up drinking it. However, he cautioned against beliefs that the plant known as artemisia could cure Covid-19.

The popularity of umhlonyane has risen to prominence during the Covid-19 outbreak after claims emanating from Madagascar that the plant can defeat the coronavirus.

In South Africa, following the reports from the Island, debate has been raging on social media about umhlonyane. The first high-profile South African to back it was Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who had contracted coronavirus and revealed that umhlonyane was among the remedies that helped him recover.

May 27 2020 - 18:44

Lift cigarette ban or we go to court: AfriForum

AfriForum has written to the ministry of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, warning that it will go to court if the government doesn't lift the lockdown ban on the sale of tobacco.

The organisation's letter - sent via its lawyers - challenges the rationality of the continued ban and prohibition on the sale of tobacco, tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and related products.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday that the prohibition on tobacco products will continue during level three of lockdown.

May 27 2020 - 18:14

Wife's haircut pushes lawyer to take government to court over salon ban

Many a South African has reached a breaking point during the national lockdown which started two months ago. Criminal law advocate Carlo Viljoen’s came when his wife decided to cut her own hair.

Now he is leading a one-man David vs Goliath battle in the Western Cape High Court against the national government’s ban on hairdressers and salons.

On Wednesday he told the court that he was acting in his private capacity when he brought an urgent application for the court to scrap the ban on the hairdressing and salon industry.

May 27 2020 - 17:57

Putin gets invitation from UK's Johnson on coronavirus vaccine summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin has received an invitation from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take part in a summit on the coronavirus vaccine, but no decision has been made yet on participation, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

May 27 2020 - 17:44

'Do not go to school tomorrow': five KZN unions tell teachers

Five teachers' unions in KwaZulu-Natal have advised teachers not to report to schools on Thursday due to lack of readiness under the Covid-19 protocols.

The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA (Naptosa), the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), the National Teachers' Union, the South African Teachers' Union (SAOU) and the Professional Educators' Union (PEU) issued a joint statement at the eleventh hour on Wednesday afternoon ahead of hundreds of teachers returning to school.

“We advise our members in the province not to report to schools on May 28 because schools are not ready to receive them under the Covid-19 protocols. We must be consistent, education in this province will commence when all schools are ready to receive learners and teachers safely,” the unions said.

May 27 2020 - 17:16

UIF pays out R15bn for Covid-19 relief, apologises for late release of funds

The employment and labour department says the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has to date paid in excess of R15bn to beneficiaries of the company relief scheme.

On April 16, the fund paid the first batch of Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) benefits to employers on behalf of workers. Applications for May opened at midnight on Tuesday.

UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping apologised for a break in its network, which has affected plans to capture the May Covid-19 Ters online applications.

May 27 2020 - 16:56

Senegal to continue chloroquine virus treatment

Senegal will continue treating Covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine, a senior health official said on Wednesday, despite recent evidence that the anti-malarial drug is harmful.

Authorities in the West African state opted to provide consenting patients with the drug early on during its coronavirus outbreak, citing promising clinical results. Chloroquine and its derivative hydroxychloroquine have been used for decades against malaria and are considered cheap and safe when used correctly. US President Donald Trump promoted its use and stunned his own administration earlier this month by revealing he was taking it as a preventive measure against the virus.

But even as countries around the world rushed to use the anti-malarials to fight Covid-19, experts urged caution and warned that the drugs can have potentially serious side effects. A study of nearly 100,000 Covid-19 patients, released on Friday, appeared to confirm some of those concerns.

Published in the medical journal The Lancet, the study found that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine do not benefit hospitalised patients - and even increase the risk of death and heart arrhythmia. It recommended against using either drug outside of clinical trials.

Abdoulaye Bousso, who heads Senegal's Centre for Health Emergency Operations, told AFP on Wednesday that the country's hydroxychloroquine treatment programme would nonetheless continue, without offering further details. 


May 27 2020 - 16:51

Premier League clubs vote to resume contact training

Premier League clubs voted unanimously on Wednesday to resume contact training as the English top-flight took a significant step towards restarting in June.

The Premier League was put on hold in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Liverpool just two wins away from sealing the title.

Clubs returned to training in small and socially distanced groups last week but they have now moved to stage two of the "return to training protocol".

"Premier League shareholders today voted unanimously to resume contact training, marking another step towards restarting the Premier League season, when safe to do so," the league said in a statement.

"Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact."

The decision was made following consultation with clubs, players, managers and the government.


May 27 2020 - 16:05

Patients and staff test positive for Covid-19 at frail care centre in PE

A Port Elizabeth frail care centre has recorded 19 patients and 10 staff members with Covid-19, while an 83-year-old woman has already died.

The Lorraine Frail Care Centre is run by Life Esidimeni, which is part of the Life Healthcare group, reports HeraldLIVE

The woman died on May 23 and had a chronic neurological disease, according to health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.

May 27 2020 - 15:41

UIF delaying Ters benefits is 'a ticking time bomb', warns DA

Millions of South Africans will possibly not be able to receive any Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Covid-19 relief until the middle of June as the state has still not begun accepting applications for May, the DA has said.

Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi said in a media statement on Tuesday that applications for the Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) benefits for May would open at midnight that night — but by Wednesday morning the website was still not live.

The benefit is meant to compensate those who have suffered a loss of income because of the coronavirus lockdown.

May 27 2020 - 15:27

This is why we banned cigarette sales: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma tells court

The overarching rationale behind temporarily banning the sale of tobacco products during level 4 of the lockdown was to protect human life and health and to reduce the potential strain on the health-care system.

Also, the ban would mean that a “sizeable number of South Africans” would quit smoking once the lockdown comes to an end - with the “poor and youth ... particularly likely to quit”.

Co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma made these comments in an affidavit filed with the high court in Pretoria on Wednesday.

May 27 2020 - 15:03

KZN education department to hire 6,000 people to conduct screenings at schools

The KwaZulu-Natal education department will deploy 6,000 people to screen teachers and pupils at schools in the province from June 1.

In a communique sent out to district directors on Tuesday, the department said that people employed to do screenings at schools would fall under the department of public works' extended public works programme (EPWP).

Principals and school governing bodies were given until Wednesday to identify people within their communities who would be beneficiaries of the programme.

May 27 2020 - 14:55

WATCH | Local breweries see explosion of orders ahead of level 3

Online orders for beer from local breweries in Cape Town have gone through the roof as level 3 of the lockdown approaches on June 1.

May 27 2020 - 14:16

387 deaths in Western Cape as cases climb to 16,551

There are now 16,551 cases of Covid-19 in the Western Cape and 387 people confirmed dead from the virus.

May 27 2020 - 13:55

'Church isn't essential' - Mzansi fears Covid-19 could spread after the lifting of religious gatherings ban

“Church is not an essential service”.

This is the view shared by thousands who are conveying their frustration on social media, after President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement that places of worship will be open from next week.

May 27 2020 - 13:10

Durban's K9 unit closes after a member tests positive for Covid-19

A member of the Durban SAPS K9 unit has tested positive for Covid-19, prompting the closure of the specialised unit.

“One member tested positive at the dog unit. The colleagues he came in contact with are being screened and tested while the dog unit is bring decontaminated,” said police spokesperson Brig Vishnu Naidoo.

May 27 2020 - 13:07

Zweli Mkhize reassures SA that whole country will move to level 3

Health minister Zweli Mkhize moved to reassure the nation on Wednesday that the whole country would move to level 3 on June 1 — but warned areas with outbreaks could later return to a hard lockdown.

There was confusion over whether some parts of the country would stay on level 4 on June 1 after an “old slide” was shown during a briefing by Mkhize to parliament’s National Council of Provinces on Tuesday.

“That slide is now outdated and was inadvertently included in a presentation that had been updated,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

May 27 2020 - 12:53

Read my lips - a face mask to help the deaf

A Cape Town occupational therapist who turned her love of sewing into a self-run business, and a Durban entrepreneurial speech therapy student are unmasking lips to help deaf people communicate amid the Covid-19 pandemic in SA.

Based on opposite sides of the country, Rowan Banks and Lauren Neilson do not know each other, but have both come up with an ideal solution - a mask with a sealed, transparent thick plastic communication window - to help people to lip-read.

May 27 2020 - 12:24

'Having discrete levels is increasingly becoming a mockery' — Natasha Mazzone & Gwen Ngwenya discuss lockdown

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone and head of policy Gwen Ngwenya have weighed in on Covid-19 and the lockdown.

Mazzone and Ngwenya were featured in the party's bi-weekly online Covid-19 talks show, CoronaCast

Here are six interesting quotes from their discussion.

May 27 2020 - 12:23

Covid-19 hotspots: where they are, how they're identified and what goes on in them

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has detailed measures on how the government will identify Covid-19 hotspots in the country.

This will be part of the country's district-level lockdown as it moves to level 3.

The hotspots include Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City, Cape Town, West Coast, Overberg, Cape Winelands, Chris Hani and iLembe.

May 27 2020 - 11:49

Covid-19 infections at churches happened before health regulations were in place: Kenneth Meshoe

Covid-19 infections in churches in the Eastern Cape and Free State happened before there were any health protocols or regulations in place to curb the spread of the virus, African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe said on Wednesday.

“Those infections happened before there were any health protocols and any health regulations in place. That’s why the people were free to do whatever they wanted to do; they would kiss and hug in the church.

May 27 2020 - 11:06

Western Cape correctional services official dies from Covid-19

A Western Cape correctional services department official has died from Covid-19.

The department said the official died on Tuesday. He had been suffering from diabetes.

“It is with a heavy heart that we confirm the passing of a 58-year-old official in the Western Cape. He was diabetic and this comorbidity strained recovery efforts. Our condolences go to his family, friends and entire department of correctional services brigade,” said correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.

May 27 2020 - 11:02

Woman with SA-French citizenship seeks help to get out of Peru

A woman who has dual SA and French citizenship has asked for help to be evacuated from Peru to return home to London, where she has been resident for years.

Haley Hartwell says a camping trip for a couple of weeks in Peru at the beginning of March had ended up with her being completely isolated in the jungle for two months, after the outbreak of Covid-19, and she is not sure for how long she will be in Iquitos.

After the outbreak of Covid-19, most countries closed their skies, making it difficult for foreigners to get home.

May 27 2020 - 10:55

Sassa tells frustrated R350 relief grant applicants to 'give payment process more time'

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has asked recipients who have not received their R350 Covid-19 relief grant payment for May to wait a little longer.

This comes after frustrated recipients questioned the agency on why it issued a payment schedule for its other grants in June, instead of first addressing the burning issue of payments for this month.

The R350 social relief grant is meant for unemployed citizens and qualifying foreign citizens during the lockdown.

May 27 2020 - 10:53

Bishop who paid fine for breaking lockdown laws wants government to compensate churches for lost revenue

The KwaZulu-Natal bishop who paid a R1,500 fine for breaching lockdown violations on Wednesday said the government should compensate churches for the weeks they were forced to shut their doors and did not receive income in the form of tithes and offerings.

Leader of God’s Church Must Rise, Bishop Bheki Ngcobo, said the move by the government to recognise churches as essential services only on lockdown level 3 has had dire consequences.

May 27 2020 - 10:31

Mmusi Maimane challenges Zweli Mkhize to share how lockdown 'helped flatten the curve'

One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has challenged health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize to produce provincial graphics to show how the Covid-19 lockdown has “helped to flatten the curve”.

This comes after claims made by Mkhize on Tuesday, saying flattening the curve was an everyday effort.

Mkhize said the health department was dealing with internal transmissions and it has seen a 25% increase in positive cases in the past week.

May 27 2020 - 10:10

World coronavirus death toll tops 350,000

More than 350,000 deaths from the new coronavirus have been recorded worldwide since it first appeared in China in December, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources as of 0600 GMT.

A total of 350,196 deaths have been reported, from 5,589,389 cases, including 173,713 in Europe from 2,057,414 infections.

The United States has registered the most deaths of any country, 98,929, ahead of Britain with 37,048, Italy with 32,955, France with 28,530 and Spain with 27,117.

The number of diagnosed cases however reflects only a fraction of the actual number of infections as many countries test only serious cases or lack testing capacity.


May 27 2020 - 9:30

Business rescue practitioners shoot down SAA plan to fly under lockdown

SA Airways' joint business rescue practitioners (BRPs) on Wednesday shot down an “unvetted” statement issued by the airline the previous day saying it was ready to resume domestic flights from mid-June.

The carrier said on Tuesday that it was retaining its domestic schedule, between Johannesburg and Cape Town, and was “looking forward to welcoming and serving our customers once again”, once flights were permitted.

May 27 2020 - 9:30

Locals pitch in to clean up top rural school ahead of restart

The rural community around Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape have come together to ensure that their best-performing school, Nyanga Senior Secondary, is ready for the reopening of schools next week.

A group of residents literally rolled up their sleeves and helped to clean classrooms and the hostel of the school at Gxojeni, alongside the R61, reports SowetanLIVE.

May 27 2020 - 9:24

'He doesn't care anymore' - Mbuyiseni Ndlozi slams Ramaphosa for lifting ban on churches

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi has slammed the decision to reopen churches under level 3 of lockdown.

This after President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday night announced that recognised places of worship will be allowed to reopen from June 1.

It came after the government's discussions with religious leaders over the opening of spiritual worship and counselling services “subject to certain norms and standards”.

May 27 2020 - 9:13

'Congratulations': Thuli Madonsela to pastors as churches set to reopen

Former public protector Thuli Mdonsela congratulated Christian Revival Church pastor At Boshoff and colleagues following president Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement that churches would reopen on level 3 lockdown.

May 27 2020 - 9:13

Covid-19: Informal traders quietly defy ban on door-to-door selling

Informal traders in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape are trying to find a way to survive by quietly going door-to-door selling goods in spite of lockdown rules.

Municipal spokesperson Mtubanzi Mniki said only informal traders who had permits before the lockdown and who sold uncooked food, could be granted Covid-19 trading permits.

May 27 2020 - 8:49

Scientist says the answer for Covid-19 testing lies in sewage surveillance

With the country facing a shortage of Covid-19 tests kits, a scientist from the University of the Free State believes that the answer to bolster testing lies in sewage surveillance.

Dr Anthony Turton from the Centre for Environmental Management at the institution said there were 824 wastewater treatment works in the country and each one served a population of “known size”.

May 27 2020 - 8:49

Poor families are spending more on food since Covid-19 lockdown — here's why

Low-income families have increased their spending on food by more than 30% since March when the national Covid-19 lockdown began.

This is according to a report published by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group this week.

The group collected its food price data from five supermarkets and four butcheries that serve poor households in areas across Pietermaritzburg.

Julie Smith, a PEJDG researcher, told GroundUp that they also spoke to shoppers about their spending habits at supermarkets in places like KwaMashu and Mtubatuba in KwaZulu-Natal, Khayelitsha in Cape Town, Soweto in Gauteng and Springbok in the Northern Cape.


May 27 2020 - 8:32

No hugs or massive gatherings: 6 ways your religious worship will change come next week

As South Africans come to terms with the “new normal” brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced several regulations for church services under the nationwide lockdown.

Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday that churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of worship will be allowed to open from June 1.

May 27 2020 - 8:13

SA must wait longer to hear rules for level 3 lockdown, with just 3 working days to go

A briefing by the national coronavirus command council to provide details on  the regulations governing the anticipated Covid-19 level 3 restrictions, which was scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed.

Athi Geleba, head of digital communications in the presidency, shared this on Twitter.

Announcements were expected at 12.30pm On Wednesday, after the briefing had already been delayed by a day.

May 27 2020 - 8:13

Disinfectant spray booths during Covid-19 — sanitising overkill?

Is compelling commuters and schoolchildren to walk through booths or tunnels which spray them with disinfectant really necessary as an anti-Covid-19 measure? Pretoria-based microbiologist Dr Lucia Anelich thinks not. Nor does the World Health Organisation (WHO) advise it.

May 27 2020 - 8:00

‘Vindictive, intolerant’: top academics’ stinging criticism of Pillay

Academic heavyweights have slammed the health department’s acting head for his “vindictive” criticism of SA Medical Research Council president Prof Glenda Gray.

And they want Anban Pillay to back off.

May 27 2020 - 7:00

UIF scrambles as Covid-19 relief claims pile up

With just four days left in May, it's a race to process hundreds of thousands of claims for financial relief.

But the UIF says not one application has been processed for the month.

May 27 2020 - 6:00

Government facing myriad of court challenges over lockdown rules

Legal challenges against the government are mounting as several opposition parties, teacher unions and civil rights organisations are approaching courts to challenge lockdown regulations and the constitutionality of its decisions.

May 27 2020 - 6:00

POLL | Should government allow sit-downs in restaurants under level 3 lockdown?

May 27 2020 - 5:57

'Take a broomstick to Covid-19'

SA’s Covid-19 infections are set to soar as people head back to work - and drop their guard.

They'll have to adapt to new ways of living, say experts.