COVID-19 WRAP | SA records 2,758 new Covid-19 cases & South Africans fear unemployment more than Covid-19 - study

SA may be over the Covid-19 surge, but reimposing strict restrictions is still on the table, warns health minister Zweli Mkhize.

26 August 2020 - 07:27 By TIMESLIVE
A woman walks with her daughter as schools reopen amid a nationwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg, South Africa August 24 2020.
A woman walks with her daughter as schools reopen amid a nationwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg, South Africa August 24 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

August 26 2020 - 21:25

SA records 2,758 new Covid-19 cases as death toll passes 13,500

After two days of fewer than 2,000 new Covid-19 cases being recorded, the health ministry on Wednesday announced that 2,758 infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours.

August 26 2020 - 21:20

Presidency reveals full breakdown of Covid-19 spending

President Cyril Ramaphosa's office has spent R1.45m on Covid-19 supplies, of which nearly R38,000 came from petty cash.

This is according to figures the National Treasury released on Wednesday. Ramaphosa said the release of the purchases was an indication of the government's commitment to transparency.

August 26 2020 - 19:12

Announce a R1-trillion stimulus plan, Cosatu tells Ramaphosa

Cosatu wants president Cyril Ramaphosa to announce a R1-trillion stimulus plan to form part of the government’s economic recovery plan.

The federation – which is also a member of the tripartite alliance led by the ANC – has also expressed disappointment in the R500bn package announced by Ramaphosa earlier this year to try and mitigate the socio-economic impact bought about by Covid-19.

August 26 2020 - 18:56

Government names every company that scored from Covid-19 tenders

President Cyril Ramaphosa believes that publishing the list of all Covid-19 related government expenditure is a demonstration of his government's commitment to transparency.

The ANC-led government has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks after revelations of alleged corruption in the awarding of Covid-19 tenders. A number of provincial governments have been caught on the wrong side of the Covid-19 procurement. This includes the likes of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

August 26 2020 - 15:16

Excess deaths will soon be a thing of the past: Medical Research Council

After watching the number of excess deaths decline for the fourth successive week, SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) experts said on Wednesday that the end is in sight.

The SAMRC team has issued weekly reports about the number of deaths in excess of a prediction based on patterns of mortality in 2018 and 2019, combined with a lower number of deaths as a result of the national lockdown.

On Wednesday, estimated excess deaths from natural causes reached 39,087 for the period between May 6 - when statistics began to depart sharply from the prediction - and August 18. In the same period, the health department reported 12,112 deaths from Covid-19.

August 26 2020 - 14:45

WATCH | Usain Bolt vows to stay responsible & quarantine after Covid-19 diagnosis

World-record sprinter Usain Bolt has vowed to “stay responsible” and “quarantine” after being diagnosed with Covid-19 this week.

Jamaica's health ministry confirmed that Bolt, who holds world records in the 100m and 200m sprints, tested positive for the virus after he threw a mask-free bash in Jamaica last week to celebrate his 34th birthday.

The star later took to social media to update followers about his health and urge them to stay safe. While he did not confirm he had contracted the coronavirus, he promised to quarantine and maintain his distance from friends and family while awaiting further information.

August 26 2020 - 14:39

WATCH | ‘Like Christmas’: Liquor stores overrun after fake alcohol ban voice note shakes confidence in government

“It was like Christmas!” said Eric Matondo, manager of Harley's Liquor in Cape Town, the morning after a spike in booze sales on Tuesday afternoon.

“People were buying box wine, champagne, spirits, beers, cider, everything. I had to send our driver to pick up more stock this morning.”

Matondo said the panic-buying was mainly as a result of a voice note which circulated on Tuesday saying that President Cyril Ramaphosa would address the nation and reinstate the booze ban.

August 26 2020 - 14:08

How funeral collectives are helping Malawians repatriate their dead

“Last month we sent three bodies home — from Imizamo Yethu, Capricorn and Dunoon. Another man died this month in Dunoon,” says Father Kizito Gugah of St Timothy’s Catholic Church in Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain.

Repatriation of the dead to Malawi is costly for immigrants when loved ones die in SA, and since Covid-19 struck it has become more expensive and more complicated.

“‘He has to go and rest at home, Ayenera akagone kumudzi’ — these are regular words that demonstrate unity and desire to help each other I hear from Malawians during the time of loss,” says Father Kizito.

August 26 2020 - 13:58

Virgin Atlantic offers free global Covid-19 cover to passengers

Virgin Atlantic is the latest airline to promise to pay its passengers' Covid-19 medical expenses.

The airline announced it is offering free global Virgin Atlantic Covid-19 cover which will apply to all existing and new bookings, travelling until March 31 2021.

The insurance policy with Allianz Assistance offers comprehensive cover if a customer or travel companion becomes ill with Covid-19 while on a trip. The £500,000 (about R11m) cover includes medical expenses, quarantine costs and repatriation, if medically necessary. It also covers costs if a customer is denied boarding or held in quarantine.

August 26 2020 - 13:51

National laboratory staff continue strike despite court interdict

National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) staff have continued their strike despite a labour court interdict declaring it unlawful.

NHLS spokesperson Mzi Gcukumana said the strike was “sporadic in different locations”. Contingency plans are in place to mitigate the effect on operations.

The NHLS warned on Tuesday that if the strike by the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) continued this week it would disrupt Covid-19 testing across the country.

August 26 2020 - 13:09

Dlamini-Zuma will follow 'public participation process' if ciggie sales are banned again

Co-operative governance & traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will follow a “public participation process” should there be a renewed ban on the sale of tobacco products during the lockdown.

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) said on Wednesday that this  undertaking was part of a negotiated settlement in which it had agreed to drop its legal challenge against government over the tobacco sales ban.

“Over the course of the last week, our legal representatives have been engaged in settlement negotiations with the office of the state attorney acting on behalf of both the minister of co-operative governance & traditional affairs as well as the president of the Republic of SA,” Fita chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said on Wednesday.

August 26 2020 - 12:12

SA's children must wear masks in school despite new WHO guidelines

All children attending South African schools have to wear masks despite the World Health Organisation's new guidelines.

The global health authority released guidelines at the weekend stating that children under the age of five should not wear masks while those aged between six and 11 should wear masks only in exceptional circumstances.

However, the department of basic education is sticking by its rule that all children in schools must wear masks.

August 26 2020 - 11:54

#Alcoholbanlifted: South Africans with trust issues stockpile booze

Some South Africans have stockpiled alcohol despite government squashing fake reports on Tuesday about a reintroduction of the ban on liquor sales.

Many were in a state of panic and some threatened to protest as a voice note circulated claiming that President Cyril Ramaphosa would address the nation and reinstate the booze ban.

Twitter user Tebogo Ramaselele shared a video of a shopping trolley filled to the brim with beer as “he doesn't trust uncle Cyril”. “I had to come stock up just in case he decided to ban alcohol again. Just to be on a safer side. Just had to get my favourite,” wrote Ramaselele.

August 26 2020 - 11:44

Poor households hit hard by a worrying rise in basic food prices

The cost of the average household food basket in SA increased by nearly R60 in August.

This is according to the latest household food index report by the civil group Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity (PMBEJD).

The household food index surveys women from low-income households to provide a sense of what their food baskets cost. Though based in Pietermaritzburg, the household food index may provide a picture into food price inflation experienced by households living on low incomes across SA.

August 26 2020 - 11:39

Eastern Cape braces for new surge even as Covid-19 numbers subside

The provincial government has warned the Eastern Cape is yet to reach its peak in coronavirus infections, with health MEC Sindiswa Gomba on Tuesday saying that would be determined by people's attitudes.

Gomba said the Eastern Cape was not yet out of the woods even though premier Oscar Mabuyane announced the number of critically ill Covid-19 patients had decreased in August. The province had recorded 84,144 cases by Tuesday evening, with 2,800 deaths and 79,947 recoveries.

Gomba said they were still bracing for a surge, which was predicted between August and September.

August 26 2020 - 11:37

PODCAST | Waze for humans - SA students create new app to help you avoid Covid-19 hotspots

In this episode of The Khwezi Science Report, we look at the fascinating story of how the body of a man who died 9,000 years ago sheds light on questions we still have today about what to do with the dead.

We talk about worker ants who climb the social ladder, and smartphone tech that busts you for walking in a drunken manner.

We explore the psychology of agoraphobia, and hear more about a local app that can help you avoid crowds.

August 26 2020 - 11:21

Researchers say 'low concentrations' of zone can neutralise Covid-19

Japanese researchers said on Wednesday that low concentrations of ozone can neutralise coronavirus particles, potentially providing a way for hospitals to disinfect examination rooms and waiting areas.

Scientists at Fujita Health University told a news conference they had proven that ozone gas in concentrations of 0.05 to 0.1 parts per million (ppm), levels considered harmless to humans, could kill the virus.

The experiment used an ozone generator in a sealed chamber with a sample of coronavirus. The potency of the virus declined by more than 90% when subjected to low level ozone for 10 hours.


August 26 2020 - 09:37

Concerns raised about immunity as more Covid-19 reinfections reported

Two European patients are confirmed to have been reinfected with Covid-19, raising concerns about people's immunity to the coronavirus as the world struggles to tame the pandemic.

The cases, in Belgium and the Netherlands, follow a report this week by researchers in Hong Kong about a man there who had contracted a different strain of the virus four and a half months after being declared recovered — the first such second infection to be documented.

That has raised fears about the efficacy of potential vaccines against the virus, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, though experts say there would need to be many more cases of reinfection for these to be justified.


August 26 2020 - 09:31

Kazakhstan says it has secured supplies of Russian Covid-19 vaccine

Kazakhstan has signed a deal to get supplies of Russia's first potential Covid-19 vaccine once clinical trials are complete, the Central Asian nation's government said on Wednesday.

The government did not say how many doses of the vaccine it planned to buy and at what price. It said the vaccine would be made available to at-risk Kazakh citizens free of charge.

The vaccine, called "Sputnik V" in homage to the world's first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has been hailed as safe and effective by Russian authorities and scientists following two months of small-scale human trials.

August 26 2020 - 09:12

Business calls for urgent intervention after UIF-Ters benefits suspended

Business4SA (B4SA) has expressed dismay at the temporary shutdown of unemployment relief funds, saying it has offered to help the labour department free of charge with capacity challenges impeding the payouts of lockdown aid.

All payments of Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) benefits have been halted pending investigations by the auditor-general.

B4SA said: “It is understood the auditor-general is investigating system integrity problems at the UIF related to the Ters system.

August 26 2020 - 08:53

Five key points from Fikile Mbalula's briefing on amended transport regulations under level 2

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced transport regulations for level 2 of the lockdown on Tuesday evening.

Here are five key points from his address:

Public transport

The minister said minibus taxis transporting passengers between provinces are still not allowed to operate at their full passenger carrying capacity.

August 26 2020 - 07:14

Zweli Mkhize warns SA is not far from return to strict lockdown

SA may be over the Covid-19 surge, but reimposing strict restrictions is still on the table, warns health minister Zweli Mkhize.

Mkhize told eNCA he hoped SA did not have to reimpose extreme lockdown restrictions, as other countries have done.

He said the plateau had started and the country was seeing an impressive decrease in Covid-19 infections, but he feared a resurgence might be on the cards if people neglected precautionary measures.

August 26 2020 - 07:00

61% of SA lost income due to Covid-19: research

Five months into the Covid-19 pandemic, financial distress remains a concern among South Africans, with as many as 61% reporting a loss of income.

This is according to the latest research results on the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus conducted by the market research company Ask Afrika.