COVID-19 WRAP | Covid-19 positivity rate drops to 6.5% & what we know about the S.African variant of Covid-19

09 February 2021 - 07:29
By TimesLIVE
 A pedestrian walks during a snow storm, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S., February 1 2021.
Image: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo A pedestrian walks during a snow storm, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S., February 1 2021.

February 09 2021 - 22:31

Covid-19 positivity rate drops to 6.5% as SA records just 1,742 new cases

SA recorded just 1,742 Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, but it was the positivity rate of just 6.48% that will likely be most pleasing.

Just before the start of the second wave of infections late last year, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize stated that a positivity rate of more than 10% was of concern.

But in the latest statistics released by Mkhize on Monday showed that the positivity rate was significantly lower than this, with the 1,742 new cases coming from 26,859 tests.

February 09 2021 - 21:34

Don't bin the AstraZeneca vaccine, says Prof Shabir Madhi

There is no need to dump the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, as it still has an important place in SA’s fight against the coronavirus.

In fact, people at high risk of severe Covid-19 infection that could result in hospitalisation or death, should take the vaccine — first and foremost the country’s front-line health-care workers.

This is according to Wits University professor and principal investigator of the AstraZeneca vaccine trial, Prof Shabir Madhi, who was speaking on a panel hosted by Maverick Citizen on Tuesday night. Madhi said there was scientific reason to believe the shot was effective against severe Covid-19 infection, so it should still be used in SA.

February 09 2021 - 16:24

WATCH | ‘I have extreme anxiety’- Frontline burial workers prep for ‘inevitable’ Covid-19 third wave

Tears well up in Aboo Sayed’s eyes and his voice cracks as he recounts the story of two siblings holding one another, sobbing, at the previous day’s burial service carried out by the Saaberie Chishty Burial Society. 

No other family member was present as they were all infected with coronavirus. 

“These two siblings held each other and cried out, which broke our hearts. That’s when we realised we need to be strong for them, to try and support and make it easier for them,” Sayed recounts.

February 09 2021 - 13:37

Surveys suggest up to half of all South Africans don't want Covid vaccine

As a nurse in a country battling deadly diseases, Rich Sicina sometimes vaccinates other South Africans, but he says there is no way he will take a Covid-19 shot — he doesn't believe it will be safe or effective.

SA's decision on Sunday to suspend plans to roll out AstraZeneca's vaccine, after data showed it may not offer sufficient protection against the country's dominant coronavirus variant, has only added to Sicina's concerns.

“We do not trust these politicians,” he said.

February 09 2021 - 13:06

SA to start Covid-19 vaccinations with J&J doses

SA will start its immunisation campaign with Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine after data showed AstraZeneca's shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the dominant local virus variant.

SA has recorded the most coronavirus infections in Africa and more than 46,000 deaths. It had planned to start offering health-care workers the AstraZeneca jabs soon but put that plan on hold on Sunday.

A government fact sheet published on Monday said the J&J vaccine would be offered from mid-February. A senior health official said J&J had agreed to speed up deliveries so the first doses would become available around the end of the week.

February 09 2021 - 12:38

SA mulls 'stepped' rollout as global health officials back AstraZeneca vaccine

Health officials around the world gave their backing to the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 after a study showing it had little effect against mild disease caused by the variant now spreading quickly in SA rang global alarms.

The prospect that new virus variants could evolve the ability to elude vaccines is one of the main risks hanging over the global strategy to emerge from the pandemic by rolling out vaccines this year.

SA, where a new variant now accounts for the vast bulk of cases, initially announced a pause in its rollout of one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

February 09 2021 - 12:38

AstraZeneca vaccine has major role to play, SA trial lead says

The lead investigator on the SA trial of AstraZeneca's vaccine said he believed it had a major role to play in Africa and globally, despite data showing the vaccine offered minimal protection against mild to moderate Covid-19 caused by the country's dominant virus variant.

Prof Shabir Madhi from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg told Reuters he would begin rolling out the one million AstraZeneca doses already in the country immediately, since they expire in April and it would be reckless to waste them.

February 09 2021 - 11:45

Does the world need new Covid vaccines? 'Jury is out', Oxford's Pollard says

It is not yet clear whether the world needs a new set of vaccines to fight different variants of the novel coronavirus but scientists are working on new ones so there is no reason for alarm, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group said on Tuesday.

SA has paused a planned rollout of AstraZeneca's vaccines after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild infection among young people from the dominant variant there, stoking fears of a much longer battle with the pathogen.

AstraZeneca and Oxford University aim to produce a next generation of vaccines that will protect against variants as soon as the autumn before the northern hemisphere winter, AstraZeneca's research chief said this month.

February 09 2021 - 11:01

'Give India vaccine to healthy people'

Don't throw away the one million AstraZeneca jabs. Give them to healthier people.

This is what experts have advised the government to do with the more than a million vaccines that arrived in the country last week after they were found not to offer protection against mild to moderate disease caused by the dominant Covid-19 variant in SA.

Last week, the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccine from India arrived in SA amid renewed hope in the fight against Covid-19.

February 09 2021 - 10:00

WATCH | 'Fatigue is our baseline': Tembisa hospital front-line staff running on fumes after second wave

Tembisa hospital's head of internal medicine, Dr Portia Ngwatha, paces through gentle pillars of morning light that spill onto the hospital's corridors.

Ngwatha oversees 60 doctors in the hospital and despite being seconds away from starting her early morning rounds in the hospital's Covid-19 wards, one of her two ever-ringing cellphones is pushed to her ear.

A barrage of instructions, a brief pause, followed by more instructions. On the two-minute-long walk to the hospital's Covid-19 dedicated ICU, the doctor has received a total of three calls.

February 09 2021 - 08:04

Health sciences university says 'herbal cure' for Covid must wait for test outcomes

The Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) says it will continue conducting tests on the safety and efficacy of a herbal product from the M5 MediGroup.

M5 MediGroup approached the university in 2020 to conduct tests to provide proof that their product presented a potential “alternative remedy” for Covid-19.

In January 2021, the traditional healers group handed over samples of their herbal product to SMU.

February 09 2021 - 07:30

'People’s lives are on the line': Seven reactions to SA's vaccine 'moemish'

The EFF is among parties that have reacted to the news that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not particularly effective against mild to moderate disease caused by the dominant Covid-19 variant.

On Sunday, the department of health confirmed that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided minimal protection against the symptoms from the new Covid-19 variant, 501Y.V2 or B. 1.351.

The batch of 1 million vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII) arrived in SA last week and it is set to expire in April.

February 09 2021 - 07:30

South Africa halted the planned rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild infection from one variant of the virus found in the country.

* The variant was identified in December and is now the dominant variant in South Africa, responsible for 80%-90% of COVID-19 new cases. 

* Scientists say it is different from other variants circulating in South Africa because it has multiple mutations in the important "spike" protein that the virus uses to infect human cells.

* The 501Y.V2 variant, part of the B.1.351 lineage, is about 53% more transmissible than earlier variants of the virus, research shows.

* South African scientists say there is no clear evidence that it is associated with more severe disease or worse outcomes. However, it does appear to spread faster than previous iterations.

* As of Jan. 27, it had been identified in 41 countries, according to the World Health Organization. Australia, China France, Japan and Switzerland are among the countries that have found cases. 

* Drugmakers including Pfizer/BioNTech , Moderna, AstraZeneca are testing whether their vaccines protect against the variant.


February 09 2021 - 07:00

First it was whether to take the jab, now health-care workers must decide which one

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? That was the question put to health-care workers on Friday. And the responses were mixed.

But things changed two days later, when health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced on Monday night that the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to health-care workers — who were first in line for the Covid jab — would be temporarily halted after disappointing results on the vaccine's efficacy for mild and moderate infection from the Covid variant dominating in SA. However, it is likely that the vaccine is effective against severe infection.

February 09 2021 - 06:00

WATCH | Surviving the second wave: Anxiety & fatigue on the Covid front line

South African front-line health-care staff have been tirelessly battling the Covid-19 pandemic since the country's first cases were recorded in March 2020.  

At Tembisa Hospital, near the nation's capital, head of internal medicine Dr Portia Ngwata says she hasn't taken a day off since the start of the pandemic. 

“I personally haven't taken leave since 2020 until today. My staff, the leave that they actually have is when they're sick. We've got continuous fatigue. We just wish this virus would give us a break,” Ngwata says.