Vaccine may be ready in early 2021, neighbourhood creates space for self-isolation, and oxygen supply shortage looms in Gauteng

By Christi Nortier 9 July 2020

Some of the first South African Covid-19 vaccine triallists at Chris Hani-Baragwanath hospital in Soweto. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Siphiwe Sibeko / Pool)

On Thursday, it was predicted that the Covid-19 vaccine being trialled in South Africa may be ready by early 2021. In Gauteng, the short supply of oxygen has raised questions over how much planning and preparation was done during lockdown. Meanwhile, amaBhungane has revealed that a bungled tender could have provided a lifeline of food parcels to Sassa grant recipients before and during lockdown. In Cape Town, a neighbourhood has pulled together to provide a safe space for people with Covid-19 to isolate.

Christi Nortier

Scroll through the gallery below to view the latest Covid-19 numbers available on 9 July at the district level. All maps are sourced from provincial health departments; however, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo did not provide an update by the time of publishing:

The Covid-19 vaccine currently being trialled in South Africa could be ready in the first quarter of 2021 – but this, of course, depends on the results of the clinical trials, said the principal investigator of Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine Trial in South Africa, Professor Shabir Madhi. He was providing an update on the trial during a World Health Organisation press briefing on Thursday 9 July. He said that in the meantime, the focus must remain on slowing the spread of the virus. 

“The vaccine needs to take place, but we need to manage what is upon us right now and that is the surging cases we are seeing across the African continent.”

Just as Covid-19 is surging in Gauteng, so the province’s public hospitals and clinics have started to run out of oxygen with no clear solution to the problem. This is in addition to the pressure of hospital beds filling up quickly with Covid-19 patients. Doctors have reported that the number of hospital beds with piped oxygen has not been increased during the three-month lockdown. At Nasrec field hospital, only eight out of between 400 and 500 beds have piped oxygen. Ferial Haffajee explains why oxygen is vital for some patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms and asks doctors what was achieved during lockdown.

The latest investigation by amaBhungane has revealed that there could have been a system of food parcel delivery already in place before the pandemic hit, if it were not for a Sassa tender gone awry. Sassa failed to appoint a new service provider to supply and distribute food parcels after a contract came to an end in November 2019. The service provider whose contract ended in 2019 sat with millions of rand worth of food with nowhere to go. Gemma Ritchie unpacks how things went wrong.

A group of neighbours in Ocean View, Cape Town, have pulled together donations to temporarily convert a crèche into a new community care centre where residents can stay if they need to isolate after testing positive for Covid-19. It has space for 10 people, and volunteers from the neighbourhood’s Collective Action Network will look after them. As Vincent Cruywagen reports, the initiative has been recognised by the provincial department of health as proof that communities can come together and help each other.

The Gauteng Health Department has clarified that the province’s municipalities have the capacity for 1.5 million gravesites. It made the clarification after the Health MEC Bandile Masuku said on Wednesday that 1.5 million gravesites were being prepared in the province. 

Meanwhile, the Pretoria High Court has granted the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association its bid to appeal the ban on the sale of tobacco products during the lockdown. It will be heard on 15 July.

Nine informal recyclers have finally been released after the North Gauteng High Court declared their arrest and detention at the start of lockdown as unlawful and unconstitutional. The men were arrested for breaking lockdown regulations by going to find recyclable material to make an income. They had been in detention for nearly 90 days and were denied access to legal representatives.

When it came to their release, the prison authorities could not immediately trace two of the men in the jail. In addition, they had been denied medicine such as antiretrovirals. As Chanel Retief writes, Lawyers for Human Rights took on their case and say the men were confused but relieved to realise someone had been fighting for them from outside the whole time.

In Port Elizabeth, waste pickers live and work in fear of Covid-19, but feel they have no choice but to put their health on the line to put food on the table. They receive no outside assistance and rely on industrial waste to find personal protective equipment which they clean and then use. Luvuyo Mehlwana spoke to them about how they navigate the lockdown. DM/MC


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