COVID-19 WRAP | SA records 6,381 new Covid-19 cases

06 December 2021 - 06:10
By TimesLIVE
A healthcare worker administers a nasal swab Covid-19 test at mobile testing site in the Times Square neighborhood of New York, US, on Sunday, December 5, 2021.
Image: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg A healthcare worker administers a nasal swab Covid-19 test at mobile testing site in the Times Square neighborhood of New York, US, on Sunday, December 5, 2021.

December 06 2021 - 19:30

Nearly 6,400 new Covid-19 cases, nine deaths in 24 hours, says NICD

SA recorded 6,381 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours along with nine fatalities, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said on Monday.

The new infections came at a positivity rate of 26.4%.

According to the NICD, the epicentre of the fourth wave of infections continues to be Gauteng, where 4,488 new cases were recorded. There were 635 cases in KZN, 356 in the Western Cape and 337 in Mpumalanga.

December 06 2021 - 19:18

'Fewer severe Covid-19 cases' in Omicron epicentre hospitals

Most hospitalised patients in Tshwane — the country's Covid-19 fourth wave and Omicron epicentre — have not needed supplementary oxygen to help them breathe. 

This is according to the Tshwane district Omicron variant patient profile, contained as part of a report released by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), which looked at early-experience patient profiles at the Steve Biko/Tshwane District Hospital (SBAH/TDH) complex in Pretoria.

The data is for the first two weeks of the Omicron wave in Tshwane, from November 14 to 29.

December 06 2021 - 16:35

'Our lives are just as important': Ramaphosa criticises Western nations' handling of Covid-19

President Cyril Ramaphosa has used his four-nation visit to West Africa to criticise Western nations for “ignoring science” and looking out for their “own selfish interests” in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the past few days on his trip to Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal, Ramaphosa has accused powerful nations of hoarding vaccines and a knee-jerk response to the Omicron variant by imposing travel restrictions on Southern African nations.

December 06 2021 - 15:43

Plea for rural health workers to get booster shots ahead of fourth wave

Almost two-thirds of healthcare workers in one of the world’s biggest Covid-19 vaccine trials have not yet taken booster shots, and they only have 10 working days left to do so.

They will be at the forefront of SA’s fourth wave of infections, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant drives up SA’s caseload.

When the first phase of the Sisonke trial ended in May, almost 500,000 of SA’s healthcare workers had received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. This was identified as key in limiting illness among workers on the frontline of the country’s subsequent waves of Covid-19 infections.

December 06 2021 - 13:52

Next pandemic could be more lethal than Covid, Oxford vaccine creator says

Future pandemics could be even more lethal than Covid-19 so the lessons learned from the pandemic must not be squandered, one of the creators of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine said.

"This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods," Sarah Gilbert said in the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, the BBC reported. "The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both." 

December 06 2021 - 13:00

POLL | Has your company or school introduced mandatory vaccinations?

Several companies and universities have announced plans to roll out mandatory vaccination measures starting in January 2022.

Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country was considering making vaccines mandatory.

He said the introduction of such measures was a difficult and complex issue, but was necessary to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

December 06 2021 - 12:37

Rules for events, venues and tourist sites amid Covid-19 gazetted

The tourism ministry has published new rules for safe operations in the tourism and hospitality sector amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The rules, published by tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu in the government gazette on Friday, outline operational procedures for holiday destinations, casinos, tourist attractions, weddings, meetings, convention sites, curio shops, restaurants and other food service operators, and tour operators.

“In developing norms and standards for the safe operation of the tourism sector, the objective is to facilitate consensus on minimum universal practices which the sector will abide by to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“The policy response assumes it will be some time before the pandemic subsides or until a widely accessible vaccine or other appropriate scientific solution is available.”

December 06 2021 - 12:03

WATCH | Let's discuss it further, says Ramaphosa on mandatory vaccination

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for more discussion on mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for people to enter certain public spaces. 

“I've left the question open. I've said that I'd like a discussion to ensue in the country. We live in a country where people have a number of strong views, for and against. And my task as a leader is to nudge everyone in the same direction,” he said during a visit to Senegal.

The task team set up to investigate mandatory vaccinations is “meant to be active” and should provide him with a report.

December 06 2021 - 11:29

WATCH | Rage festival boss lashes out at media for creating ‘hysteria and panic’ that led to events being canned

One of the founders and major shareholders of the Ballito and Plett Rage festivals has accused media houses of creating panic and hysteria about the events, which he says led to them being cancelled.

Both festivals were cancelled last week after staff and guests tested positive for Covid-19 amid mounting public pressure for them not to continue.

President Cyril Ramaphosa led the call during his address to the nation last Sunday when he said such events should not go ahead.

Greg Walsh, one of the organisers, founders and major shareholders of the Ballito Rage and Plett Rage festivals, took to social media to express his anger and disappointment about media pressure.

December 06 2021 - 11:00

Senator Chuck Schumer urges use of free at-home Covid-19 test kits

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer urged Americans to seek out free, at-home Covid-19 test kits that are being distributed at community health centers, just days after the US confirmed infections of the Omicron variant.

December 06 2021 - 10:49

MTN imposes mandatory Covid-19 vaccination, warns staff who refuse jab

The MTN Group will implement a mandatory vaccination policy for staff from January, it announced on Monday, warning staff who refuse to comply.

“The science is clear. Vaccination against Covid-19 reduces rates of serious infections, hospitalisation and death. As an employer, we have a responsibility to ensure that our workplaces are guided by the highest standards of health and safety and that has informed our decision to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for our staff,” CEO Ralph Mupita said.

The new policy recognised some low-risk roles that will be accommodated with full-time work-from-home or alternate arrangements, but this will be a small percentage of its workforce.

December 06 2021 - 10:13

Ramaphosa will ‘soon’ meet command council amid surge in infections

As the country battles its fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa says a meeting with the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) to review the state of the pandemic will take place soon.   

December 06 2021 - 10:02

Life getting you down? You might be able to reinstate your application for the R350 grant

Applicants for the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant whose applications were previously cancelled can reinstate them if their circumstances have changed.

This was announced by the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) over the weekend after the agency cancelled applications from  people who were found to be employed and no longer needed financial assistance. 

The grant is reserved for unemployed people and “for persons in dire material need who are unable to meet their families’ most basic needs”.

It will be paid monthly until the end of March 2022.

December 06 2021 - 09:46

At outbreak epicentre, students shrug off Omicron and fret about exams

The students knew their university was the epicentre of a new Covid-19 variant spreading panic across the globe, but during the past week many worried more about how Omicron would mess up exams and holiday plans than about catching it.

December 06 2021 - 08:29

Scientist who first sequenced Omicron worried by speed of change

The speed at which the omicron variant appears to have accumulated its unusual pattern of mutations is a concern, according to Sikhulile Moyo, the scientist who first detected the new strain that has quickly spread across the world. 

The velocity of the mutations also raises questions about how the variant evolved and adds to the puzzle of how transmissible the variant may be. 

December 06 2021 - 08:00

More Cases of Omicron Certain Amid Community Spread, Fauci Says

Rising U.S. omicron cases are guaranteed in the coming days as the highly mutated variant has begun spreading in the community, according to Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser.

“We absolutely have community spread” of the strain in the U.S., Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an appearance on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power with David Westin” on Friday.

“There is no way you are not going to see more and more cases.”

Fauci said he was closely monitoring the situation in South Africa, where the strain was first seen, including for signs of how quickly the new variant spreads among vaccinated people. He said on the show that he will get an update from South African officials during a Zoom call Saturday morning.

The big looming question, he said, is how omicron will fare when it has to compete in places like the U.S. where the delta strain is prevalent.

“Will it take off and become the dominant variant, or will it get a bit smothered by delta?” Fauci said. “The only way we are going to know” is to wait and see.


December 06 2021 - 07:46

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of Omicron variant

A probable case of the Omicron variant has been identified in a crew member of a Norwegian Cruise ship that reached New Orleans on Sunday after detecting Covid-19 among some crew and guests, the Louisiana Department of Health said.

The probable case was found among 10 people who tested positive for the virus on Saturday, the health agency said in a tweet on Sunday.

Another seven cases have since been reported, it added, taking the total number of cases among passengers and crew of Norwegian Breakaway, a cruise ship owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd , to 17.

"At this time, there have been no changes to scheduled future sailings on Norwegian Breakaway," a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement to Reuters.

The cruise ship departed New Orleans on a week-long cruise on Nov. 28 and had stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico, the health agency said."

NCL has been adhering to appropriate quarantine and isolation protocols," the department said in an earlier tweet.


December 06 2021 - 07:30

Will a PCR test pick up if I have the Omicron variant?

As scientists and health experts continue to study the Omicron Covid-19 variant to understand its severity and how contagious it can be, preliminary data suggests rapid antigen tests should pick up the new variant.

According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), indications are the variant can be detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The tests are used to determine if there is specific genetic material from the coronavirus present.

December 06 2021 - 06:29

President Ramaphosa expects report back on vaccine mandates soon

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday said he was waiting for a report back from a task team he established to investigate the possibility of making vaccination mandatory.

“When the National Coronavirus Command Council  meets, I am expecting a report from the task team we set up as well as the inter-ministerial committee. There needs to be a report and this needs to happen very quickly because with the rising wave of infections, we need to act quickly so cabinet can take a decision on this matter,” said Ramaphosa.

December 06 2021 - 06:00

Omicronomics: what the new variant could mean for SA’s economy

Like all other Covid-19 variants before the current Omicron variant, one must be mindful of the many estimates and potential impacts it may have on local economic activity and financial markets. The past 18 months have taught us that economic conditions can change rapidly in either direction. However, what we do know is several countries have implemented travel restrictions on SA, and we believe many of these restrictions will remain in place until the end of January 2022. 

For SA, the Omicron variant comes at a time when the seasonal hospitality sector was hoping to finally benefit from an uptick in local and international travel, tourism and hospitality in general.

Up until the second quarter of 2021, the trade, accommodation and catering industry was the second-worst performing industry in the domestic economy, with overall economic activity in this industry almost 20% below the levels seen in the fourth quarter of 2019. Only the construction industry in the domestic economy fared worse. Unfortunately, the trade, accommodation and catering industry is now likely to see another weak quarter and may well not recover to pre-Covid levels before December 2023