COVID-19 WRAP | Covid-19 update shows most active cases are in KwaZulu-Natal

20 April 2021 - 07:33 By TimesLIVE
A nurse puts a used Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine vial in a disposal box with empty vials at Messe Wien Congress Center, which has been set up as a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination centre, in Vienna, Austria.
A nurse puts a used Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine vial in a disposal box with empty vials at Messe Wien Congress Center, which has been set up as a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination centre, in Vienna, Austria.
Image: REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

April 20 2021 - 21:47

Covid-19 update shows most active cases are in KwaZulu-Natal

The cumulative number of Covid-19 cases for SA reached 1,568,366 on Tuesday evening.

There were 130 deaths recorded on Tuesday — the majority of which, at 41, were in the Western Cape followed by 34 in North West, 13 in the Northern Cape and 11 each in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

“This brings the total to 53,887 deaths. Some provinces have been conducting data verification at facilities to ensure that all Covid-19 related deaths that were not reported are reported,” health minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

April 20 2021 - 18:25

Mexico president receives AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador received the AstraZeneca shot against Covid-19 on Tuesday, urging trust in vaccines after several countries limited the use of AstraZeneca due to suspected links to rare blood clots.

Lopez Obrador, 67, has said the benefits of getting inoculated outweighed the risks of the low-cost shot, which is a core pillar of Mexico's vaccination strategy.

Ahead of rolling up his sleeve for the shot at the end of his regular daily news conference, Lopez Obrador said he wanted to encourage all older adults to also get their shots to be protected from the coronavirus.

April 20 2021 - 17:42

No clarity on private sector price for Covid-19 vaccines in SA

With just weeks to go until the government expects to continue with its coronavirus vaccine rollout, it has yet to finalise a pricing structure for the private sector, leaving medical schemes and health-care providers unsure how to make financial provision for the rollout.

The national vaccination campaign is due to start on May 17 and aims to reach 46.2 million people by March 2022. The government has ordered 31 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) single-shot vaccine, and 30 million doses of Pfizer’s double-shot regimen at a cost of $10 (about R142) a dose, according to health minister Zweli Mkhize.

While the Treasury has consistently said the government will fund the campaign, Mkhize has also made it clear medical scheme members will be expected to help pay for it.

April 20 2021 - 13:45

SIU investigation into company linked to Zweli Mkhize associates ongoing

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on Tuesday said an investigation into a R82m tender issued to a company allegedly linked to health minister Zweli Mkhize’s associates is ongoing.

“Once there is an outcome we will update the nation,” said SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago.

Mkhize and department of health director-general Sandile Buthelezi told parliament last month the department was cooperating and committed to dealing with the outcomes of the investigation.

April 20 2021 - 12:30

IN QUOTES | Zweli Mkhize gives Western Cape's vaccine rollout preparations the thumbs-up

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has given the Western Cape's vaccine rollout preparations the thumbs-up.

On Monday, Mkhize visited the province as part of his assessment of provinces’ preparedness for the mass rollout of the second phase of the vaccine, which is set to start on May 17.

He reassured the province the department of health has secured enough vaccines for all provinces and the Western Cape will get as many vaccines as they need to achieve population immunity.

April 20 2021 - 11:09

IATA head Walsh hits out at Covid-19 PCR test profiteering

The head of global airline industry body IATA has hit out at the high cost of PCR testing, accusing some companies of profiteering from the Covid-19 tests, and calling for the industry to challenge whether PCR tests are necessary."

We're clearly seeing evidence of profiteering by people who have jumped on the testing bandwagon" Willie Walsh, IATA's new director general, said at an industry conference on Tuesday.

"The cost of testing should be significantly lower than it is. I think we've got to challenge whether PCR testing is necessary," he said. 

Reuters

April 20 2021 - 10:50

Egypt to purchase 20 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine

Egypt has agreed to purchase 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinopharm and expects to receive a batch of 500,000 shots this month, its health ministry said on Tuesday.

The agreement boosts vaccination efforts in Egypt, which has a population of 100 million and has so far received a total of just over 1.5 million doses of Sinopharm and of the AstraZeneca shot.

Earlier this month, Egypt announced it was preparing to produce up to 80 million doses of the vaccine produced by China's Sinovac. 

Reuters

April 20 2021 - 10:47

Covid-19 vaccine donated by AU to South Sudan expires

About 60,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine donated by the AU to South Sudan expired before they could be used, the country's health officials have said.

BBC reported that about 2,000 health workers and the elderly have been vaccinated in Juba, South Sudan's capital.

The report said the state's incident manager, Dr Richard Laku, said the country wouldn't have finished the 60,000 donated doses before their expiry date even if it had started using them. 

April 20 2021 - 09:16

Israel logs Indian Covid-19 variant, sees some vaccine efficacy against it

Israel has registered eight cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India and believes that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is at least partially effective against it, an Israeli health official said on Tuesday.

An initial seven cases of the Indian variant were detected in Israel last week among people arriving from abroad and who have since undergone preliminary testing, the Health Ministry said.

"The impression is that the Pfizer vaccine has efficacy against it, albeit a reduced efficacy," the ministry's director-general, Hezi Levy, told Kan public radio, saying the number of cases of the variant in Israel now stood at eight.

The ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for more details on the research into the Indian variant.

Britain and Ireland have also said they are investigating the variant after detecting it within their borders.

Israel, whose population is 9.3 million, has fully vaccinated around 81% of citizens or residents over the age of 16. COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations are down sharply.

-REUTERS

April 20 2021 - 08:05

343,420 elderly have signed up for the jab so far, as SA preps for wider Covid-19 rollout

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says he has reassured the Western Cape government that it does not need to procure its own Covid-19 vaccines, as the national government has secured enough vaccines for all provinces to achieve population immunity.

Mkhize said the province should focus its energies on the distribution and logistics of inoculation. He visited the province to ensure readiness for the vaccine rollout after inspections in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. 

April 20 2021 - 07:44

New Zealand expects Australia 'travel bubble' to stay open despite new virus case

 New Zealand authorities reported on Tuesday that a worker in Auckland airport has tested positive for Covid-19, but doubted whether the new case would warrant ordering a pause in quarantine-free travel with Australia.

Australia and New Zealand opened a travel bubble on Monday, after both countries had closed borders in March 2020 to non-citizens and permanent residents to contain the pandemic.

"When we opened, on both sides, we of course knew we would continue to have cases connected to our border," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

"We accept that's going to be part of our journey together, I think Australia accepts that."

New Zealand's health authorities were liaising with their Australian counterparts, Ardern said, with no initial indication that the so-called 'travel bubble' would be halted.

The infected worker, who was fully vaccinated for the virus, had been cleaning airplanes coming from countries with known virus outbreaks, Ardern told reporters in Auckland.

The worker had tested negative on April 12 but on Monday tested positive as part of routine testing, she said, adding that contact tracing was underway.

Australia Health Minister Greg Hunt said he has "full confidence" in New Zealand's health system to contain the new infection.

"We've seen them deal with the inevitable outbreaks and there will be other days when there are cases in Australia," Hunt said during a televised media briefing in Melbourne.

Border closures, snap lockdowns and speedy tracing systems have helped Australia and New Zealand keep their Covid-19 numbers relatively low.

Australia has recorded just over 29,500 virus cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began, while New Zealand has had just over 2,200 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.

Reuters

April 20 2021 - 07:39

Philippines to start clinical trials on ivermectin, other drugs for Covid-19

 The Philippines will begin clinical trial of several drugs, including the anti-parasite medication ivermectin, in patients with Covid-19 to determine their efficacy in combatting the coronavirus, a senior government official said.

Some politicians in the Philippines have started promoting the use of ivermectin for coronavirus and given out free doses, although the country's food and drugs regulator has cautioned against the use because of a lack of evidence for the drug as a treatment.

The clinical trial for ivermectin, which could last for six months, "will give us a more reliable estimate of the effects of invermectin as an anti-viral agent in mild and moderate (Covid-19) patients," science and technology minister, Fortunato Dela Pena, said in a presentation late on Monday.

The Southeast Asian nation, which is facing one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, is battling a renewed surge in infections, with its vaccination drive on reaching 1.3 million people out of its more than 108 million population.

Ivermectin tablets have been approved for treating some worm infestations and for veterinary use in animals for parasites.

The World Health Organization last month recommended against using ivermectin in patients with Covid-19 except for clinical trials, because of a lack of data demonstrating its benefits.

Dela Pena said the government has also approved the clinical trials of a new formulation of methylprednisolone, a steroid, and melatonin, as treatments for Covid-19.

The government will also start trials of an herbal supplement, derived from the native tawa-tawa plant that can fight dengue, he said, adding to ongoing tests using virgin coconut oil for severe Covid-19 patients.

"We are trying several (medications). They may not be vaccines but they could potentially speed up the recovery," Dela Pena said.

The Philippines has recorded more than 945,000 Covid-19 cases and over 16,000 deaths, the second highest rates in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia. 

Reuters

April 20 2021 - 07:30

French health minister says would favour regional easing of lockdowns

French health minister Olivier Veran would favour a region-by-region easing of lockdown measures set up to tackle the Covid-19 virus, he told regional paper Le Telegramme in an interview published on Tuesday.

Veran added that while there were signs that the latest surge in Covid-19 in France was starting to ease off a little, the virus was still circulating at a high level.

The health ministry said on Monday that 5,970 people were in intensive care units with Covid-19, up from 5,893 a day earlier, in a sign that hospitals remain under pressure.

France also reported 449 new Covid-19 deaths in hospitals, up from 140 on Sunday, taking the cumulative toll to 101,183 since the start of the pandemic.

President Emmanuel Macron's government is hoping that an acceleration of its vaccination campaign, combined with the one-month national lockdown in place since end-March, will help it regain control over the latest outbreak of the virus.

The government is considering easing the lockdown in May, provided it feels the Covidsituation has improved enough to re-open some businesses and activities. 

Reuters

April 20 2021 - 07:20

Flights land in New Zealand-Australia travel bubble

New Zealand welcomed the first passengers from Australia as the travel bubble between the two countries began, allowing quarantine-free travel for the first time in over a year.

April 20 2021 - 07:10

Delhi locks down as Covid-19 cases soar

India's capital region of Delhi ordered a six-day lockdown as daily Covid-19 cases nationwide hit a new record and the health system crumbled under the weight of new infections.

April 20 2021 - 07:00

Israel drops outdoor Covid mask order

Israelis went about bare-faced on Sunday, as the mandatory wearing of protective masks outdoors was rescinded in the country's latest return to relative normality, boosted by a mass-vaccination campaign against the Covid-19 pandemic.

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