COVID-19 WRAP | SA records 8,500 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours

01 December 2021 - 06:10 By TimesLIVE
Pedestrians walk through a shopping plaza in the city centre, as the state of New South Wales surpasses the 90 percent double-dose coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccination target for its population aged 16 and over, in Sydney, Australia, November 9, 2021.
Pedestrians walk through a shopping plaza in the city centre, as the state of New South Wales surpasses the 90 percent double-dose coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccination target for its population aged 16 and over, in Sydney, Australia, November 9, 2021.
Image: REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

December 01 2021 - 19:03

Big jump in new Covid-19 cases as SA records 8,500 in 24 hours

The number of new Covid-19 cases nearly doubled between Tuesday and Wednesday, the latest National Institute for Communicable Diseases data showed.

Figures from the NICD on Wednesday showed that there were 8,561 new infections reported in the past 24 hours, up from 4,373 reported the day before.

There would also be concerns around the positivity rate — the number of confirmed infections against the number of tests taken in the same period — which rose from 10.2% on Tuesday to 16.5% on Wednesday.

December 01 2021 - 18:54

Omicron in 23 countries: WHO slams those who penalised SA

The World Health Organisation has lambasted countries across the globe for victimising SA in the wake of it revealing the new Covid-19 Omicron variant.

The variant has been found in 23 countries at the moment, the WHO said, but a backlog of cases across the globe could reveal its presence in several more.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Thursday: “It is deeply concerning to me that SA and Botswana are being penalised.”

December 01 2021 - 16:18

French government: all travellers from outside EU will need negative Covid-19 test

Travellers reaching France from outside the European Union will be subject to the obligation of a negative Covid-19 test, regardless their vaccination status, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said in Wednesday.

The move is part of a bundle of measures aimed at tackling a new surge in infections as worries caused by the newly detected Omicron variant loom.

December 01 2021 - 13:56

Vaccines will likely prevent serious disease from Omicron, UK's Javid says

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Wednesday it was possible that vaccines were less effective against the Omicron variant of coronavirus, but they should still protect against serious disease.

"Our best form of defence still remains our vaccines," Javid told Sky News. "It's possible of course, it's possible that it might be less effective. We just don't know for sure yet. But it's also very likely that it will remain effective against serious disease." 

Reuters

December 01 2021 - 13:32

FDA panel narrowly backs Merck's at-home Covid-19 pill

A panel of expert advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday narrowly voted to recommend the agency authorize Merck & Co's antiviral pill to treat Covid-19.

December 01 2021 - 11:48

Ballito Rage cancelled after 32 guests and four staff test positive

Amid growing calls for the Ballito Rage Festival to be cancelled, the organisers announced on Wednesday that the remainder of the controversial event would not go ahead.

This comes after 32 guests and four staff members tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday.

On Sunday during his address to the nation President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed concern about gatherings like Rage and said such events should be called off.

The organisers said: “We take the safety of all our customers, staff  and suppliers extremely seriously. It is for this reason the event organisers have taken the decision to cancel the remainder of Ballito Rage.

December 01 2021 - 11:40

Germany faces ‘dangerous situation’ in hospitals on Covid-19 surge

Germany urgently needs stricter measures to check a surge in Covid-19 infections and protect hospitals from a “particularly dangerous situation,” according to the head of the country’s DIVI intensive-care medicine lobby.

ICUs have had to find beds for about 1,400 additional coronavirus patients in the past week, DIVI president Gernot Marx said. The total number — now at about 4,600 — will reach 6,000 by Christmas, exceeding the peak during the second wave of the pandemic last winter, he predicted.

December 01 2021 - 11:30

SA’s Omicron epicentre sees sudden vaccination rush

Residents of SA’s richest province and the nation’s Omicron epicentre are rushing to get vaccinated, driving up national inoculation rates that were languishing before the sequencing of the new coronavirus variant. 

SA administered 175,395 shots in the last 24 hours, a 5.6% increase from Monday and 41% higher than the same period on Thursday, the day the nation’s scientists announced discovery of the troubling new strain. Almost a third of the inoculations were in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.

December 01 2021 - 11:00

WHO's Tedros warns against over-reaction to Omicron

The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) voiced concern on Tuesday that some countries were introducing blanket measures against the Omicron coronavirus variant that may not be necessary and penalised African nations unfairly.

"I well understand the concern of all countries to protect their citizens against a variant that we don't yet fully understand," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"But I am equally concerned that several Member States are introducing blunt, blanket measures that are not evidence-based or effective on their own, and which will only worsen inequities."

December 01 2021 - 09:19

‘These are superspreader activities’: KZN premier warns against matric parties

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala has appealed to parents and pupils not to organise or take part in events and celebrations that may flout Covid-19 safety protocols and endanger lives. 

This is as activities that previously became Covid-19 superspreader events start to take place in the province despite the increase in Covid-19 infections and fears about the Omicron variant.

“Reports are indicating that with the end of the year and the end of school, pupils, especially matriculants, have started to converge in KwaZulu-Natal for events such as Rage and others known as 'throw the pen away' after-parties. At most of these events young people gather in large groups. Some indulge in alcohol binges.

December 01 2021 - 09:07

Nigeria confirms first Omicron cases among travellers from SA

Nigeria confirmed its first cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in two travellers who arrived from SA last week, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said on Wednesday.

The NCDC said retrospective sequencing of previously confirmed cases among travellers to Nigeria had also identified the variant among a sample collected in October, reports Reuters.

President Cyril Ramaphosa embarked on a weeklong four-nation state visit to West Africa on Tuesday. He will visit Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and the Ivory Coast.

Ramaphosa said bans imposed on several African states in response to the new variant went against the G20 Rome spirit when countries agreed they must open up travel because the tourism industry around the world has been devastated by the pandemic, reports Sunday Times Daily.

December 01 2021 - 08:57

Tourism industry turns its attention to local visitors

The tourism and hospitality industries are putting their hopes in domestic tourism after mass cancellations by international visitors after the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, which has sparked renewed fears around the world that the two-year pandemic might last longer.

December 01 2021 - 08:21

Omicron could outcompete Delta: South African expert

The Omicron coronavirus variant could be the most likely candidate to displace the highly contagious Delta variant

December 01 2021 - 07:00

Health department doubles Vooma vaccination vouchers to R200 for people over 50

The Gauteng health department has doubled the incentive amount of the Vooma vaccination voucher to R200 to get more people over 50 vaccinated.

On Monday, the department said people in this age group were expected to be among the most affected by the fourth wave of infections driven by the new Omicron variant. 

“A large number of unvaccinated people aged 50+ are predicted to die in this fourth wave. We want to make sure the 50+ have the taxi fare to get to vaccination sites before Christmas,” said the department.

The vouchers are redeemable at any Shoprite supermarket within 30 days.

December 01 2021 - 06:35

Moderna warning that jabs won’t stop Omicron sends markets into free fall

Drugmaker Moderna’s CEO set off fresh alarm bells in financial markets on Tuesday after he warned that Covid-19 vaccines were unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they have been against Delta.

Crude oil futures shed more than a dollar, the Australian currency hit a year low and Nikkei gave up gains as Stéphane Bancel’s comments spurred fears that vaccine resistance could lead to more sickness and hospitalisations, prolonging the pandemic.

“There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level ... we had with Delta,” Bancel told the Financial Times.

“I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to ... are like: ‘This is not going to be good’,” Bancel said.

Moderna did not reply to a request for comment on the interview and on when it expects to have data on the effectiveness of its vaccine against Omicron, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) says carries a “very high” risk of infection surges.

December 01 2021 - 06:30

Just giving Africa vaccines isn’t enough to stop more nasty shocks like Omicron

How do we ensure that the world has access to the Covid-19 vaccines needed to prevent more variants like the latest Omicron strain from emerging?

One disturbingly common response to calls from the World Health Organisation and others to increase the availability of doses in emerging economies is to suggest supply isn’t really the problem but demand.

SA, where Omicron was first identified, provides one data point in favour of this hypothesis. Though barely 24% of the population has been fully vaccinated, the department of health last week asked Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to suspend delivery of vaccines because its existing stockpile was more than enough at current lacklustre rates of uptake.

To be clear, outside the rich world demand is clearly not the main constraining factor on inoculations. All but 14 of the 51 nations with supply agreements sufficient to cover their entire populations are high-income countries, according to data collected by Unicef.

December 01 2021 - 06:20

Why we shouldn’t write off Omicron cases as ‘mild’

Reports of mostly mild illness from Covid-19 infections caused by Omicron need to be interpreted with caution because they may not reflect the new variant’s severity across a broad range of people. 

Fatigue, head and body aches and occasional sore throats and coughs are among the typical symptoms experienced by Omicron patients, according to Angelique Coetzee, the doctor in SA whose observations helped scientists identify the worrisome strain. The manifestations contrast with the rapid heartbeat, low blood-oxygen levels and a loss of smell and taste often seen in Covid patients sickened by the Delta variant, she said.

While such anecdotes are encouraging, they may represent only a subset of cases and a fraction of the risk that could emerge if it spreads widely across the globe. Studies of disease patterns are needed to gauge Omicron’s virulence across diverse patient groups, public health experts said. 

December 01 2021 - 06:15

Be supportive this festive season. You might need the favour returned

Tis the season to be jolly. Not.

There is a pervading sense of hopelessness that has a lot to do with a pandemic that has seeped into every aspect of people’s lives, with scant indication it will be over any time soon.

For those buckling under this enormous weight, the question is, are there any reserves left or ways to fill the empty mental tank?

And bleaker days lie ahead, is the story told by the latest unemployment figures in SA, released on Tuesday by Stats SA. They show that unemployment rose to 34.9% in the third quarter of 2021, the highest since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in 2008.

This includes 571,000 job losses in formal employment, with women still bearing the brunt. The rate among them was 37.3% in the third quarter, compared with 32.9% among men.

December 01 2021 - 06:10

CAIPHUS KGOSANA | The sooner life becomes tricky for anti-vax dimwits the better

The problem with consultative democracy is that we are required to over-consult ignoramuses on interventions that will save their own lives. I was listening to the ACDP’s Kenneth Meshoe on SAfm’s morning show shouting: “We don’t know what’s in the vaccines” as his sole reasoning for opposing them and possible mandates. Really, Rev? You are going to question science armed with an unscientific Bible and illogical reasoning?

I read a story online that said 87% of patients admitted to Tshwane hospitals with Covid-19 are unvaccinated. That comes as no surprise to me. I have relatives in that city who refuse to be vaccinated. One is in hospital struggling to breathe as I type this.

The Omicron variant is multiplying infections at an alarming rate. President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that government was mulling vaccine mandates. I don’t know why they are over-thinking this; just introduce them asap.

The scientists who spoke before and after Meshoe on the same show all agreed that enforcing vaccine mandates would pass constitutional muster. As one of them eloquently put it, 3.5-billion people around the globe have already vaccinated, with adverse side effects only experienced by a tiny fraction of them. This is overwhelming proof that vaccines are safe, punching another hole in the religious zealot’s flimsy argument that they are not because they were developed in record time. Meshoe’s virtue signalling is wanting.

December 01 2021 - 06:00

GORDON BROWN | To halt Covid, the world has to unite as it did against smallpox

Five million lives worldwide have already been lost to Covid-19 and the World Health Organisation/Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (WHO/ACT-A) grimly predicts another 5-million will be lost in months to come. Alarmingly, Covid-19 cases will swell from the 260-million confirmed so far to 460-million by the end of 2022.

The damage from Covid-19 has been so catastrophic that when the World Health Assembly (WHA) meets in a special session, its task is nothing less than preventing such a tragedy from reoccurring. The damage from Covid-19 has been so ruinous that we now need an internationally binding agreement to prevent future outbreaks from ever becoming pandemics again.

In the words of WHO director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, a new agreement should be underpinned by a high-level commitment to health for all, grounded in equity and solidarity between nations. Not only should all people have fair access to what they need for their health, irrespective of their wealth or income, but the international community should ensure the equitable use and distribution of available medical resources. For that to happen, we need a fully functioning global surveillance system, the fast-tracking and sharing of support in emergencies, and predictable finance. 

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