COVID-19 LIVE UPDATES | As national Covid-19 command council meets today, will SA move back to level 5?

06 January 2021 - 07:15 By TimesLIVE
A pharmacy student, wearing a face mask, administers a nasal swab to a patient in a cabin outside a pharmacy in Nantes as the coronavirus disease outbreak continues in France, on January 5 2021.
A pharmacy student, wearing a face mask, administers a nasal swab to a patient in a cabin outside a pharmacy in Nantes as the coronavirus disease outbreak continues in France, on January 5 2021.
Image: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

January 06 2021 - 20:09

Covid-19 claims senior manager and adviser in Gauteng premier's office

Covid-19 has claimed the life of a senior manager and adviser in Gauteng premier David Makhura’s office.

Makhura's office said Nokuthula Sikhakhane died on Wednesday morning in hospital after a short illness. She had been receiving treatment for Covid-19. According to the statement, Sikhakhane was Makhura's parliamentary counsellor since May 2014.

“In this capacity, she worked with all public representatives, leaders of different political parties and various constituencies. Her advice and feedback was always frank and wise,” Makhura said.

January 06 2021 - 19:03

Booze ban 'goes well beyond what is reasonable and necessary', says SAB as it takes government to court

South African Breweries has taken government to court over the latest ban on alcohol sales, challenging the constitutionality of the ban, after it failed in its efforts to get the government to consider alternatives that could have helped to save the industry while also curbing Covid transmission.

SAB, which produces the bulk of SA’s beer, said its decision to approach the courts had been a difficult one.

January 06 2021 - 17:26

KZN politician heeds the call to help hospitals short of doctors and nurses

The spike in the need for health-care workers, brought on by the second Covid-19 wave, has propelled DA spokesperson for health in KZN Dr Rishigen Viranna to roll up his sleeves and volunteer to assist overwhelmed public hospitals.

Viranna, who is a medical doctor, made the announcement on Wednesday after a KZN health portfolio committee meeting where MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu revealed that the province has a shortage of 85 doctors and 230 nurses.

January 06 2021 - 17:06

Hospitals bursting at seams as Gauteng health snoozes on bed delivery

The Gauteng health department has failed to build more than half of the 1,575 hospital beds it promised to set up in provincial hospitals ahead of the Covid-19 second wave.

The premier’s office has confirmed that, to date, only 300 beds have been added to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital with 300 beds added to the Jubilee Hospital in Pretoria.

Gauteng department of infrastructure development (DID) spokesperson Bongiwe Gambu said out of a total of 1,575 beds to be delivered by Alternative Building Technology (ABT) , 775 beds had arrived.

January 06 2021 - 16:59

SA regulatory body yet to receive applications for Ivermectin trials or registration

The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) says it has not received applications for clinical trials or the registration of the controversial drug Ivermectin for the treatment or prevention of Covid-19.

This is despite a growing call by some scientists and advocacy groups for the anti-parasitic drug to be studied and considered for human consumption in SA.

Ivermectin, which was hailed as a revolutionary drug in the 1980s and works by paralysing and killing parasites including lice and worms in livestock, has been gaining traction as a “miracle cure” for Covid-19 patients.

January 06 2021 - 16:27

Limpopo health MEC slams claims there are no ICU beds in the province

Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba has rubbished claims by a doctor at Mankweng Hospital that there are no ICU beds available at that hospital and others in the province, leading to the increase in Covid-19 related deaths.

On Wednesday, TimesLIVE published an account from a doctor who said patients were dying at an alarming rate at that hospital due to the unavailability of ICU beds. The doctor said they couldn’t transfer patients to other hospitals in the province as ICU beds there were also full.

January 06 2021 - 15:49

Excess deaths in Christmas week set new record of 16,532, says MRC

Deaths in the second wave of Covid-19 have followed other statistics by smashing records set in the first wave.

SA experienced a weekly record of 16,532 deaths from all causes in the week December 23 to 29, the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) team monitoring excess deaths during the pandemic said on Wednesday.

The previous record was 16,487, in the week beginning July 15.

January 06 2021 - 15:33

Beware of state capture networks in Covid-19 vaccine procurement: Blade Nzimande

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande has called on South Africans to watch out for corruption and “state capture networks” in the sourcing of Covid-19 vaccines for SA.

Nzimande was delivering a keynote address at the party's commemoration of the anniversary on the death of former SACP leader Joe Slovo.

According to Nzimande, the party was hard at work “forging a broad global left campaign” for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

January 06 2021 - 14:38

Covid-19 strikes again as explosive Province-Sharks match abandoned

Covid-19 has forced the cancelation of the potentially explosive Currie Cup clash between Western Province and the Sharks which was scheduled for Newlands Stadium on Saturday.

SA Rugby confirmed in a statement on Wednesday morning that the decision was taken following a number of positive Covid-19 tests in the Sharks camp and that the match has been declared a draw with the two teams receiving two log points.

The other two Currie Cup matches for this weekend between the Griquas and the Cheetahs in Kimberley on Saturday and between the Pumas and the Bulls in Nelspruit on Sunday will go ahead as planned.

January 06 2021 - 14:25

Soldiers to enforce Cape beach ban as Covid-19 takes toll on police

Police minister Bheki Cele has confirmed that soldiers will be deployed to help enforce lockdown rules on the Garden Route from Wednesday due to Covid-19 infections taking significant numbers of police officers off the streets. 

“We have requested to have soldiers work with members of the police service because our own numbers are down,” he said.

Cele told Radio 702 presenter Mandy Wiener that 300 police officers have been infected with the coronavirus and 800 are in isolation, “so we need this extra force from the army”.

Police ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba said soldiers would also be deployed in the Cape Town area.

January 06 2021 - 14:22

Brewers in danger of losing everything, call for Ramaphosa to lift booze ban

The survival of small business owners and craft breweries is in peril due to the alcohol ban, says the Beer Association of South Africa (Basa). The association on Wednesday issued an urgent call to President Cyril Ramaphosa to lift the ban.

The booze ban, which came into effect on December 28, has had a devastating impact on the industry and forced some members to dip into their savings. But these have now been depleted in some cases, leaving them in desperate need of financial relief.

“The third ban is devastating to craft brewers, who are small businesses owners who work within small margins, always putting the welfare of their staff before their own. It is now no longer a question of keeping businesses open – it has become a question of whether business owners, their employees and families will have any food to eat this month,” said Wendy Pienaar, CEO of the Craft Brewers Association South Africa (CBASA).

January 06 2021 - 14:07

Netcare sees 'alarming rise in admissions' of Covid-19 patients at hospitals

Private health-care group Netcare says patient admissions to its hospitals in the Western Cape are starting to stabilise, and are decreasing in the Eastern Cape.

However, the group is readying itself in the face of an “alarming” increase in admissions in Gauteng and elsewhere in the country - notably at its hospital in Polokwane, which is more than 100% full.

“In Gauteng we are, as expected, already experiencing an alarming rise in admissions of Covid-19 patients across all our facilities. This is expected to rapidly worsen over the next two weeks,” Netcare Group CEO Richard Friedland said on Wednesday. 

January 06 2021 - 14:04

Covid-19 killed 339 state health-care workers between March and November

Almost 340 state health-care workers died of Covid-19 related illness in SA between March and November, health minister Zweli Mkhize said in response to written questions in parliament.

A total of 339 health-care workers died in hospital during this time, with most deaths occurring in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. As of October 31, there were 35,145 confirmed Covid-19 cases among the state health-care community, said Mkhize.

"The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on human resources in health since the first positive case in the republic has been enormous,” he added.

January 06 2021 - 13:19

Police minister Bheki Cele says while the government cannot keep the economy closed forever, the alcohol ban is good for his department.

On Tuesday, Cele told eNCA that he did not know whether the alcohol ban should continue but said the non-availability of alcohol “made history” at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.

The hospital, for the first time ever, reported no trauma casualties on New Year's Eve.

January 06 2021 - 13:04

WATCH | Funeral parlour and mortuary vans queue outside hospital

A video of more than a dozen mortuary and funeral parlour vans waiting outside the RK Khan Hospital in Chatsworth on Monday is being shared as a reminder of the seriousness of the pandemic in KwaZulu-Natal. 

The person who took the video is heard saying in Zulu there were several vehicles waiting to collect bodies. 

January 06 2021 - 13:00

Durban community body dismisses social media post that it's distributing free Ivermectin as a 'hoax'

A Durban organisation is investigating the source of an alleged hoax message claiming that it was distributing the controversial drug Ivermectin, which is being used to combat the transmission of Covid-19 in some quarters internationally.

The Natal Memon Jamaat (NMJ) community-based organisation issued a statement on its social media platforms warning the public that a message doing the rounds regarding the free distribution of the drug was a “hoax”.

January 06 2021 - 12:40

McLaren driver Lando Norris tests positive for Covid-19

McLaren driver Lando Norris has tested positive for Covid-19 and is self-isolating, his Formula One team said on Tuesday.

McLaren said Norris had returned a positive result on Monday in Dubai, where he is on holiday before the team’s training camp.

Norris, 21, said he took a Covid-19 test after losing his sense of taste and smell.

January 06 2021 - 12:31

Health department says it will oppose Ivermectin court action

The department of health’s legal team says it is prepared to oppose any court action by National Freedom Party (NFP) MP Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam to secure an urgent audience with health minister Zweli Mkhize about the controversial drug Ivermectin.

Shaik Emam and a group of scientists have separately thrown their weight behind a call for the anti-parasitic drug  - used to combat the transmission of Covid-19 in some quarters internationally - to be studied and considered for human consumption in SA.

Ivermectin, hailed as a revolutionary drug in the 1980s and which works by paralysing and killing parasites including lice and worms in livestock, has been gaining traction as a “miracle cure” for Covid-19 patients.

January 06 2021 - 12:12

Ndlozi on calls to close Beitbridge: Open the borders or deal with a worse humanitarian crisis than Covid-19

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi has weighed in on the debate around the Beitbridge border post, claiming that closing the border between SA and its neighbours could cause a disaster greater than the Covid-19 pandemic.

Videos allegedly from the border have been shared widely on social media this week, showing massive crowds delayed while trying to get into SA. This is as officials in Limpopo identified 18 cases of fake negative Covid-19 test results produced at the post by people attempting to enter the country.

January 06 2021 - 11:15

The price of defying Covid-19 regulations

Disclosed someone’s Covid-19 status without their permission? You could be fined R3,000.

If you are caught transporting or selling booze, your fine could reach the R20,000 mark.

The alternative? A term of imprisonment to be determined by the court.

January 06 2021 - 11:11

Madonsela weighs in on Covid-19 vaccine rollout: 'We should be concerned, but it's not as bad as it looks'

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela says government should not put all its hopes on a Covid-19 cure, and instead emphasis prevention to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking on CapeTalk on Tuesday, Madonsela said behavioural change was important to curb the spread of the virus.

She said while SA should be concerned ahead of the rollout of vaccines, “it is not as bad as it looks”. 

She did, however, admit "government could have managed the situation better”.

“The Disaster Management Act requires a collaborative approach where provinces are not consulted but are included. There is a difference between collaborating and consulting.

January 06 2021 - 09:10

Cassper on GBV: Cops are looking for alcohol but not people who are missing and abused

Rapper Cassper Nyovest has again slammed police for not doing enough to address the scourges of gender-based violence (GBV) and human trafficking, claiming they are too focused on “looking for alcohol”.

The star took to Twitter on Tuesday to share his shock at a post about a 14-year-old girl who had gone missing, asking when the war against women and children would end.

“Not this again. When is this going to stop? SA isn't safe for women and children,” he wrote.

January 06 2021 - 08:11

Is government at risk of a damages claim if the tobacco sales ban is ultimately found to be unlawful?

Should government be worried if its ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products under the hard lockdown is ultimately found by the courts to be unlawful? Could the state face a claim for damages?

Tobacco companies and suppliers lost income during the early stages of the lockdown, which raises questions about the potential for future damages claims.

The answer, according to one legal expert, is “no”.

On Monday, government applied for leave to appeal against a high court decision in December which found that Regulation 45, used by government to effect the ban, could not stand up to constitutional scrutiny.

“The powers under section 27 of the Disaster Management Act are discretionary. In order for someone to sustain a valid claim against the government, it would be necessary to prove the discretion was exercised maliciously,” said Fluxmans Attorneys director of litigation Saul Shoot.

January 06 2021 - 07:44

POLL | What are you expecting from the national coronavirus command council meeting today?

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to meet with the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) on Wednesday.

TimesLIVE reported the meeting is set for 9am.

It comes as SA's Covid-19 death toll rises, and amid speculation Ramaphosa will announce changes to the country's lockdown restrictions. However, the meeting does not guarantee a change to lockdown restrictions will follow.

January 06 2021 - 07:42

'One night, every cubicle in the ward had a dead patient' — Polokwane doctor shares grim Covid-19 scene

“It’s sad to see patients die, knowing that there was something that could be done to save their lives.” These are the words of a doctor based at Mankweng hospital in Polokwane, Limpopo.

The doctor, who did not want to be named for fear of being victimised, said patients were dying at a high rate from Covid-19 complications.

“Sometimes I just feel like going to a GP and getting a sick note just so I can stay home for two to three days to help me deal with the different emotions inside me. But I can't do that because I need to be there for the patients and do the best I can to save those that can be saved,” the doctor told TimesLIVE.

January 06 2021 - 07:00

As national Covid-19 command council meets today, will SA move back to level 5?