COVID-19 WRAP | SA records 411 new Covid-19 deaths as cases near 1 million

23 December 2020 - 06:18
By TimesLIVE
Street vendors gather at the Francisco Morazan square, as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak continues, in San Salvador, El Salvador December 22, 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Jose Cabezas Street vendors gather at the Francisco Morazan square, as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak continues, in San Salvador, El Salvador December 22, 2020.

December 23 2020 - 22:07

Highest ever single-day increase in Covid-19 cases, with more than 14,000 recorded in SA in 24 hours

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has pressed the panic button, as SA recorded more than 14,000 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours.

This is the highest ever single-day increase in cases. The previous highest total was the 13,944 recorded on July 24.

And, said Mkhize, the spread of the virus in the second wave was "much faster" than the first wave. Currently, there are 117,229 confirmed active cases across SA.

December 23 2020 - 18:09

UK detects new coronavirus variant from contacts of people who travelled from SA

Britain has detected another new variant of the coronavirus, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday.

“We've detected two cases of another new variant of coronavirus here in the UK,” he told a media briefing.

He said both were contacts of cases who had travelled from SA in the past few weeks.

“This new variant is highly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the (first) new variant that's been discovered in the UK,” Hancock said.

December 23 2020 - 18:03

'Exponential increase in deaths' says Medical Research Council as second Covid wave washes over SA

More than 3,000 excess deaths were recorded in the past week, the SA Medical Research Council has revealed in its latest statistical release.

This, the medical body said, was a reflection of the “impact of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic”.

“The weekly number of deaths of people aged one year and older has increased in the week of December 9-15, reflecting the impact of a second wave of the pandemic,” the SAMRC said.

December 23 2020 - 16:32

Youth blamed as Covid-19 second wave hits Limpopo

The Limpopo government has pointed a finger at the behaviour of its youth during the festive season as the province experiences a second wave of Covid-19.

According to premier Stanley Mathabatha, the four worst-hit municipalities are Makhado, Thulamela, Polokwane and Thabazimbi.

December 23 2020 - 15:15

Court supports Covid beach bans: 'Infringement of rights is justifiable'

The government's beach bans in the Eastern Cape are not irrational, says high court judge Hans Fabricius, who on Wednesday dismissed three applications for the bans to be overturned.

The cases were brought by the Buffelsbaai homeowners' association, the Plettenberg Bay tourist association, the Great Brak River business forum and the Kouga local municipality.

December 23 2020 - 14:59

Cape Town is party central as new rapid testing app allows negative patrons to rock and roll

The deadly Covid-19 outbreak has not only taken lives but has deprived the world of enjoying shared moments at festivals, concerts and sports events. However, through technology, an application called Health Passport Europe is looking to change that. 

Health Passport Europe has partnered with Big Concerts and The Entertainment Group to safely reopen the events industry in SA, using latest developments in rapid Covid-19 testing and the secure Health Passport Europe mobile technology at a pilot event in Cape Town.

The event, called Recharge 2020, took place on December 21 at the Grand Café & Beach venue in Cape Town, with multiple live acts and DJs.

December 23 2020 - 14:16

Bheki Cele vs alcohol: 10 times the police minister spoke against booze

Police minister Bheki Cele's distaste for alcohol consumption and distribution during the height of lockdown sure set Mzansi abuzz this year.

From the onset, after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a 21-day lockdown from March 26 to curb the spread of Covid-19, Cele made his stance known.

December 23 2020 - 13:45

Rules to stop coronavirus variant stoke chaos at Indian airports

Passengers flying into India's biggest airports on Wednesday complained of long waits and confusion as authorities sought to impose rules to try to stop the spread of a new more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.

Like many countries, India has suspended flights from Britain, where cases have soared because of the variant.

People arriving from Britain before the ban came into force on Wednesday were being tested, including Kamini Saraswat whose plane landed in New Delhi just before midnight.

December 23 2020 - 13:07

'Dear Santa, I wish Covid-19 would go away'

“Dear Santa, please make Covid-19 go away.”

This was on the wish lists of many children, who posted letters to the North Pole via the Santa Post Box in Waterfall, Durban.

The Upper Highway community is known for spreading Christmas cheer with festive initiatives, however this year, Santa could not make his usual rounds due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

December 23 2020 - 13:05

From 'delays' to deposits: SA’s rocky road to securing a Covid-19 vaccine

After weeks of scepticism, concerns and criticism, the South African government finally made the payment for the Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday. The vaccine will be available early next year and will be accessible to 10% of the population.

December 23 2020 - 12:21

'I couldn’t breathe': Covid-19 survivor has a message to share with SA

“You can’t let this virus get to you. You’re young. Don’t give up.”

These are the words Amy Louw remembers hearing a doctor say while she lay in the Brackengate Hospital of Hope intermediate care facility with severe Covid-19 symptoms.

Louw, who works as an admin clerk at a local motoring company, has spoken about her battle to overcome the coronavirus during a 10-day stay in the field hospital.

December 23 2020 - 12:19

'Parties are Covid-19 superspreaders': Gauteng government urges residents to adhere to regulations

The Gauteng government has condemned large social gatherings and urged residents to follow the non-pharmaceutical Covid-19 prevention measures as infections continue to spike in the province.

Gauteng has 259,962 cases and 5,226 deaths. 

Acting provincial premier Panyaza Lesufi responded to several videos shared online of young people partying without wearing masks and observing safety precautions.

December 23 2020 - 12:18

Keep calm, Taiwan says after first local Covid-19 case in 8 months

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called on people on Wednesday to keep calm after the island confirmed its first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 since April 12, as the government announced negative tests so far for the person's contacts.

Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention methods and widespread use of masks, with all new cases for more than the last 250 days being among travellers arriving on the island.

But the government was jolted by Tuesday's announcement of the domestic infection of a lady who is a friend of a New Zealand pilot confirmed to have been infected earlier this week

December 23 2020 - 11:10

I'm kicking myself: Scottish first minister sorry for mask error

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon issued an apology on Wednesday after she was photographed at an indoor event without wearing a mask in breach of strict Covid-19 rules.

Sturgeon, the leader of the nationalist Scottish National Party, was pictured talking to a group of women in a pub after a funeral in Edinburgh last week without a face covering. The photo was published in Wednesday's Scottish edition of the Sun newspaper.

“Last Friday, while attending a funeral wake, I had my mask off briefly. This was a stupid mistake and I'm really sorry,” Sturgeon said in a statement.

December 23 2020 - 11:09

Covid-19 is not under control in France, says Paris hospital official

The coronavirus pandemic is not under control in France and a new lockdown must remain an option, Karine Lacombe, the head of the infectious diseases unit at Paris' Saint-Antoine hospital, said on Wednesday.

“On the epidemiological front, the epidemic is by no means under control,” Lacombe told BFM TV.

December 23 2020 - 11:08

As mutated variant spreads, PM Johnson mulls stricter lockdown

The British government will review its Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday to decide if it needs to impose stricter measures on more parts of England after a highly infectious mutated variant swept across the country, a minister said.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the rules were unlikely to change before Christmas but he said the government's committee would meet on Wednesday to decide what further action needed to be taken.

 December 23 2020 - 11:06

Peak-days beach closure confirmed by second court ruling

Beaches in the Eastern Cape, Garden Route and KwaZulu-Natal will remain closed over key dates during the peak holiday period, after a court ruling.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday ruled against the motion to have the government's Covid-19 regulation regarding beaches declared unconstitutional, said AfriForum, which had argued that the rule infringed on basic human rights.

December 23 2020 - 11:04

Stranded truckers to roll for France from UK as border reopens

Thousands of angry truck drivers should be able to start leaving Britain for France on Wednesday after Paris lifted a partial blockade designed to stop the spread of a new highly infectious coronavirus variant.

Much of the world shut its borders to Britain this week after the mutated variant started to spread quickly, with France going further by blocking passengers and freight just days before Britain leaves the European Union's orbit.

That left thousands of European truck drivers stranded in south east England just days before Christmas.

December 23 2020 - 10:09

Christmas comes early for baby animals at Australian Reptile Park

Christmas has come early for some animals celebrating their first Yuletide holiday at the Australian Reptile Park.

In footage released on Wednesday, some of the park's youngest residents, including a koala joey named Pipsqueak, were seen being given treats, surrounded by Christmas decorations.

December 23 2020 - 10:07

Production and delivery challenges set up turbulent Year of the Vaccine

As 2020 closes, regulatory approval of Covid-19 vaccines has raised hopes the world can defeat the pandemic next year. But production and delivery challenges suggest beating the disease will be a marathon whose finish line is still far away.

Europe on Monday followed Britain and the US in giving a green light to a Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and its partner Biotech which, like a similar shot from Moderna that has US emergency approval, demonstrated 95% efficacy in large trials.

The rapid approval of vaccines, just a year after the new coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China, is testament to the huge global effort made to tackle a pandemic that has killed over 1.7 million people, battered economies and upended life.

December 23 2020 - 09:29

South Korea's Moon under fire for vaccine plans as Covid-19 cases surge

South Korean President Moon Jae-in faced growing public pressure on Wednesday over his Covid-19 vaccine procurement plans as the country struggled to contain a third wave of the pandemic, reporting its second-highest daily tally of cases.

Domestic media has lambasted the government's approach to securing newly developed Covid-19 vaccines as too relaxed and overly reliant on locally produced shots, which will take more time than overseas options.

According to a poll by research firm Realmeter, six in 10 South Koreans believe urgency should be prioritised over safety when it comes to Covid-19 vaccines and that inoculations should begin as soon as possible given the rapid surge in new cases.

December 23 2020 - 09:23

'It almost took my life'- 7 celebs who opened up about getting Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic swept the planet in 2020, forcing governments around the world to enforce nationwide lockdowns, and leaving millions infected.

SA celebs were among those who caught the virus, with many fighting a silent battle away from the glare of the public spotlight.

More than a dozen big name musicians and actors opened up about their journey, getting candid about their struggles.

December 23 2020 - 09:07

IN QUOTES | From racism to Covid-19: 10 times Julius Malema spoke out in 2020

EFF leader Julius Malema did not hold back this year on speaking his mind on various issues, including gender-based violence, the government's response to Covid-19 and racism.

When SA went into lockdown in March to arrest the spread of Covid-19, Malema was vocal about the state of the South African health-care system and access to education during a pandemic.

Other issues to shake SA this year were allegations of racism and gender-based violence, which Malema spoke out on.

December 23 2020 - 09:05

Science & innovation department sets aside R25m to study new Covid-19 variant

As SA continues to battle the second wave of infections and the new Covid-19 variant, the department of science and innovation is set to fork out R25m to fund the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (Krisp).

This week, the department said a total of R45m is needed for scientists to complete the sequencing of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genomes in SA and Africa.

“This was in the wake of the latest surveillance results that show a worrying trend of the highly transmittable Covid-19 variant first identified in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape, and which moved to the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and is now the dominant and possibly the only Covid-19 variant responsible for the current surge."

December 23 2020 - 08:52

Gauteng government slams Daspoort tunnel party

The Gauteng government has called for Covid-19 compliance and “responsible behaviour” following several reports of people breaking health protocols.

This after videos circulated on social media of young people partying in large numbers with no masks, nor social distancing in place.

At the weekend, scores of youngsters were seen drinking alcohol and dancing along the R80 Mabopane highway into the Daspoort tunnel.

December 23 2020 - 08:23

December 23 2020 - 07:58

Second insurer agrees to pay Covid-19 lockdown business interruption claims

Insurance Claims Africa (ICA) has welcomed the decision by Hollard and Guardrisk to pay claims from businesses forced to close during the national lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

This follows the recent Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling in favour of the business interruption claim made by Café Chameleon, a Guardrisk customer . On December 18, the company said it would abide by the ruling.

Ryan Woolley, CEO of ICA, said Hollard has since also agreed to start processing claims as long as the policies contained the appropriate and similar cover to the policy assessed by the SCA in the Café Chameleon case.

December 23 2020 - 07:30

Trump threatens to not sign Covid-19 bill, wants bigger stimulus cheques

Failure to either pass another stopgap bill or override a possible Trump veto of the legislation could result in a partial government shutdown.

The threat by the outgoing Republican president, who has less than a month left in office, throws into turmoil a bipartisan effort in Congress to provide help for people whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.

December 23 2020 - 06:42

Covid-19 vaccine stirs rare hesitation in nearly virus-free Singapore

As Singapore prepares to roll out Covid-19 vaccinations its striking success in controlling the virus is making some question whether they should take the jabs.

In a city-state where compliance with the authorities is generally high, some Singaporeans fear potential side effects — even if minimal — are not worth the risk when daily cases are almost zero and fatalities are among the world's lowest.

December 23 2020 - 06:29

Germany's confirmed coronavirus causes rise by 24,740 - RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 24,740 to 1,554,920, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday. The reported death toll rose by 962 to 27,968, the tally showed. 


December 23 2020 - 06:00

Zoom opens up unlimited call time to help lockdown loneliness

In an effort to fight loneliness brought by the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom announced that it will not be capping meeting lengths to the current 40 minutes.

Zoom has partnered with the Together campaign, a UK coalition of charities, private organisations and interfaith institutions that aim to help build a kinder and more connected society in the aftermath of Covid-19.