COVID-19 WRAP | Government on 'high alert' for new Covid-19 variant from India: Mkhize

03 May 2021 - 07:31 By TimesLIVE
New Zealand will start quarantine free travel with Cook Islands on May 17, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference on Monday."
New Zealand will start quarantine free travel with Cook Islands on May 17, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference on Monday."
Image: 123RF/S SILVER

May 03 2021 - 23:17

Government on 'high alert' for new Covid-19 variant from India: Mkhize

The government is on “high alert” for the Covid-19 variant circulating in India, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Monday.

The government had also asked the ministerial advisory committee for its advice on how to handle travel from countries where “variants of concern” were prevalent.

In a statement, the minister said that there were no cases of the B.1.617 variant in SA, but that genomics teams had told the department they had “intensified surveillance not only to ensure that variant can be detected quickly but also to understand what the implications are for us in the context of B.1.351 being the dominant variant in SA”.

This comes after the Netcare group of hospitals confirmed that a patient who had “recently” travelled to India had tested positive for the coronavirus and was being treated in a KwaZulu-Natal hospital. The variant the patient had tested positive for was not yet established.

May 03 2021 - 20:16

Traveller from India tests positive for Covid-19

A person who recently travelled from India to SA is being treated for Covid-19 in a KwaZulu-Natal hospital, but it is not yet known which variant of the virus they contracted.

Dr Caroline Maslo, senior clinical adviser and head of infection control of Netcare’s hospital division, confirmed the information on Monday evening, and said the patient was in isolation.

“Though Covid-19 screening is performed at South African border posts, this unfortunately cannot fully rule out new cases and potentially new variants entering our country, either directly from their country of origin or via connecting routes,” she said.

May 03 2021 - 19:32

Third Covid-19 wave full of unknowns, but more than 70,000 could die

SA’s third wave of Covid-19 could see more than 70,000 deaths if there is a “slow, weak, response” to its inception, but about 7,800 if the response is “fast and strong”.

These figures, which include Covid-19 deaths in and out of hospital, are according to the latest model by the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium. They were released by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

The researchers said the modelled scenarios “do not yet include the impact of vaccination and do not estimate the timing of a third wave”. There is “substantial uncertainty” about if and when a new variant might emerge, and changes in population behaviour “remain unpredictable”.

May 03 2021 - 17:34

Taiwan bars arrivals from India as Indonesia reports first cases of Indian Covid-19 variant

Taiwan became the latest place to ban arrivals from coronavirus-stricken India on Monday, as it moves to prevent new infections, with more nations reporting cases of a variant first identified in the subcontinent.

The variant, B.1.617, has reached at least 17 countries, from Britain and Iran to Switzerland, sparking global concern and spurring several to close their borders to people travelling from India.

Scientists are studying whether the variant, resulting from two key mutations to the outer "spike" portion of the virus that attaches to human cells, is driving an unexpected explosion in cases in India.

May 03 2021 - 17:18

Increase of Covid-19 cases in Emfuleni, Tshwane and Johannesburg a concern: GP health Dept 

May 03 2021 - 17:11

UK on course to ditch social distancing rule in June - PM Johnson

Britain is on course to ditch the Covid-19 social distancing rule requiring people to stay at least one metre apart towards the end of next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.

Johnson's government has set out a roadmap to end lockdown restrictions in stages as widespread vaccinations help to suppress infections.

June 21 has been set as a date when social distancing could end.

Asked about that possibility during a campaign visit in northern England, Johnson said: "I think we've got a good chance, a good chance, of being able to dispense with one-metre plus."

May 03 2021 - 14:14

SA religious and aid bodies offer a helping hand to Covid-hit India

The SA Hindu Maha Sabha, a governing body for Hindus, has stepped up to help India — which is in the grip of a devastating Covid-19 second wave — with the donation of oxygen concentrators.

May 03 2021 - 14:09

One in two people globally lost income due to the pandemic — Gallup

One in two people worldwide saw their earnings drop due to the coronavirus, with people in low-income countries particularly hard hit by job losses or cuts to their working hours, research showed on Monday.

May 03 2021 - 13:00

War and doubts slow Covid-19 vaccination in disputed Yemen city

In al-Thawra hospital in the disputed Yemeni city of Taiz, a nurse with no face mask or protective gear inoculates the few people who have shown interest in the COVID-19 vaccine.

She picks an AstraZeneca vial from a cooler box, warms it with her hands and invokes the name of god before injecting the shot into a man's left arm.

Yemen has received 360,000 doses from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme, yet many Yemenis seem reluctant to get inoculated on religious grounds, due to distrust of the vaccine, or because of the dangers of war."

We have received 70,000 doses in Taiz and we started the vaccination campaign on April 21," Rajeh al-Maliki, head of Yemen's health ministry in Taiz."We can fairly say that there is very little interest ... we have distributed around 500 shots since we started, it is less than we expected," Maliki said.

There has been a dramatic spike in infections in Yemen this year, straining a health system already battered by war, economic collapse and a shortfall in aid funding.

The Iranian-aligned Houthi movement, which controls most of northern Yemen and parts of Taiz, has been battling the Saudi-backed government since 2014. Tens of thousands have been killed and millions rely on aid to survive.

Maliki and other doctors said many Yemenis, including medical staff, believe the vaccine would break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Checkpoints and snipers in the heavily militarised city make it impossible for many residents to reach hospitals, they said.

People living in Houthi-controlled neighbourhoods have to travel around 50 km (30 miles) to avoid front lines and reach the main government-controlled hospital."

I got infected by coronavirus, I took natural herbs and spices that our ancestors used. I was well again," said Ali Abdou, a 55-year-old Taiz resident.

"We work very hard with our bodies and it gives us strong immunity, one of us dies only when his time has come.

Those rare diseases only affect the rich and we are not among them," Abdou said.

Mohammed Muthana, another resident, said he will wait until officials and doctors take the vaccine before he can trust it.

In al-Thawra hospital, doctor Sarah Damaj has been trying to convince Yemenis the vaccine is safe and does not break the fast."

People are afraid because there is a lot of misinformation out there, especially on social media," she said.


May 03 2021 - 12:30

Pharmacy worker sold fake Covid-19 test papers for travellers - Spanish police

A pharmacy worker who was selling fake negative Covid-19 test certificates so that people could travel to Morocco has been arrested, Spanish police said on Monday.

The 24-year-old man, who was arrested in El Ejido, southern Spain, charged Moroccan people 130 euros ($156) for each fake certificate which allowed them to fly home from Spain, according to the authorities. They said he had a second job running his own travel business and selling plane tickets.

Spain's National Police added they had discovered seven cases of the suspect selling false PCR test certificates and that the investigation was ongoing


May 03 2021 - 10:30

‘This is opportunism’: politicians weigh in on Tito Mboweni's stance on elections during Covid-19

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu and MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi slammed Tito Mboweni on Sunday, after the finance minister said he will not be attending any mass gatherings and campaigns ahead of the local government elections in October. 

May 03 2021 - 10:13

May 03 2021 - 09:25

'Hospitals are full' as Argentina Covid-19 cases hit 3 million

Argentina coronavirus cases hit 3 million on Sunday since the pandemic began, as medical workers said hospitals were full to capacity despite toughened government measures to bring down the spread of infections.

May 03 2021 - 07:30

New Zealand PM Ardern says travel bubble with Cook Islands to start on May 17

New Zealand will start quarantine free travel with Cook Islands on May 17, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference on Monday."

Two way quarantine-free travel is a significant step in both countries' Covid-19 recovery, and a direct result of both New Zealand and the Cook Islands' successful response to the pandemic," Ardern said at a news conference.

A one-way quarantine-free travel from the Cook Islands to New Zealand has been possible since January. Last month New Zealand and Australia began a similar testing and quarantine-free travel. 


May 03 2021 - 07:15

India's Covid-19 case total nears 20 million

India on Monday reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for a 12th straight day, taking its overall caseload to just shy of 20 million, while deaths from Covid-19 rose by 3,417.

With 368,147 new cases over the past 24 hours, India's total infections stand at 19.93 million, while total fatalities are 218,959, according to health ministry data.

Medical experts say real numbers across the country of 1.35 billion may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.

Hospitals have filled to capacity, medical oxygen supplies have run short and morgues and crematoriums have been swamped as the country deals with the surge in cases.

At least 11 states and union territories have imposed some form of restrictions to try and stem infections, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown, concerned about the economic impact."

In my opinion, only a national stay at home order and declaring medical emergency will help to address the current healthcare needs," Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist with the University of Michigan said on Twitter."

The # of active cases is accumulating, not just the daily new cases. Even the reported numbers state there are around 3.5M active cases."

The spike in infections is India’s biggest crisis since Modi took office in 2014.

Modi has been criticised for not taking steps earlier to curb the spread and for letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies in five states during March and April.


May 03 2021 - 07:00

WATCH | The homelessness pandemic: ‘When Covid-19 started until now, my life is the same’

Homeless shelters across SA have found themselves overwhelmed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Frida Hartley shelter for women is one of the shelters that have managed to keep afloat. According to their COO Cheryl Hlabane, the shelter has mostly been reliant on private donors, not the government.

May 03 2021 - 07:00

When hard work doesn’t pay off: young people share pain of losing their businesses

Liquidations year-on-year have almost doubled thanks to the pandemic, according to Stats SA