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Provinces warn of a resurgence, caregiver grant won’t...



Provinces warn of a resurgence, caregiver grant won’t be extended and SA might manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine

This past week, two provinces warned of a resurgence in new Covid-19 cases. Meanwhile, the High Court has rejected a bid to extend the R500-caregiver grant. And Aspen may manufacture a potential Covid-19 vaccine in Port Elizabeth.

Maverick Citizen’s Coronavirus Daily Digest has changed format to a Coronavirus Weekly Digest. Each Friday morning, the digest will summarise highlights from the previous week’s news about the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa.

 Aspen might make a Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa

Multinational firm Johnson & Johnson has selected Aspen as one of the companies to manufacture its potential Covid-19 vaccine. The provisional agreement will see Aspen manufacturing the vaccine at its plant in Port Elizabeth. The vaccine candidate is in late-stage clinical trials in eight countries, including South Africa. As Sasha Planting writes, it’s early days but word on vaccine efficacy is expected in the first quarter of 2021. Even if the trial is successful, the agreement is still subject to a technology transfer and the finalisation of some terms. The facility already has the capacity to produce more than 300 million doses of the vaccine a year.

High Court rejects bid to extend R500-caregiver grant

The Pretoria High Court has struck from the roll an urgent application by the Black Sash Trust to stop the government from cancelling the R500 top-up grant for caregivers lockdown. Payment of the R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant has been extended. The judge ruled the matter was not urgent in a hearing that was closed to the media and public. The trust argued that the grant is crucial to help the people “hardest hit by the current humanitarian and economic disaster” and should be in place until the end of the state of disaster or after the pandemic. As Estelle Ellis writes, this grant will affect more than seven million beneficiaries.

Pollution is adding to South Africa’s Covid-19 deaths

About 18% of Covid-19 deaths in South Africa can be linked directly to comorbidities caused by exposure to high levels of air pollution. This is according to a global study by heart and air chemistry experts in Germany. Their research found that this figure is 15% globally. Tony Carnie unpacks the numbers.

Nelson Mandela Bay warned of stricter lockdown

The metro’s acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye has warned residents that the “option” of a harder lockdown might be to be considered to “save lives”. The mayor blamed non-compliance with lockdown regulations for the increase in Covid-19 cases. The city has confirmed about 400 new cases a day and 2,000 active cases at the start of this week. As Estelle Ellis writes, hospitalisations have also increased as have excess deaths.

Meanwhile, nurses and community healthcare workers are living and working in fear as they are targeted by gangs of armed young men who demand “Covid-19” protection money and steal the smartphones used to register patients and contact ambulances. These healthcare workers conduct crucial contact tracing and home care and have for months suffered the trauma of being followed and attacked.

As one nurse employed by the department of health said: “We do important work, but every day it is like going into a war zone. We pray every morning for our protection. I have been working in communities for a long time and they have never done this before. It is the Covid that is doing this… These phones they gave us are a very big risk for us.”

Estelle Ellis reports.

Covid-19 spikes in the Garden Route

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has called for caution after an increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases in the George and Bitou areas of the Garden Route. The provincial department of health has linked this to travellers during the school holidays. It noted that the increase was among the 20-30 age group. As Suné Payne writes, Winde said there is concern about a “second wave” and another potential lockdown.

Meanwhile, in Knysna business owners are hoping for the return of tourists during the holiday season. The town survived the devastating fires of 2017, only to be hit by drought. And water restrictions. Then came Covid-19. As Suné Payne writes, the municipality and “Visit Knysna” have plans in place to financially support small businesses and promote domestic tourism.

Thuli Madonsela brings Covid-19 recovery into the ‘M Plan’

The focus of former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s annual social justice summit focused on leaving no one behind on the path to recovery from Covid-19. As Zukiswa Pikoli writes, it brought together people from business, faith-based organisations, civil society, academia, government and the media. They contributed their knowledge on how to end inequality and poverty while recovering in a post-pandemic world. In addition, Madonsela announced the plan was launching a crowdfunding vehicle called the M Fund to support its work.

Africa needs to get involved with Covid-19 vaccine development, says Africa CDC

African countries need to step up their involvement in Covid-19 vaccine development in order to secure enough doses, agreed an expert panel this week.

The panel comprised Professor Helen Rees from the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, Dr Borna Nyaoke-Anoke from the DNDi, Professor Steve Ahuka, the incident manager for the Covid-19 response in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Dr John Nkengasong, a virologist from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

They agreed that the continent cannot afford for millions of people to die from Covid-19 because they did not have access to a vaccine. More than 12 million Africans died between 1996 and 2006 because they could not access antiretroviral HIV drugs. The Africa Centres for Disease Control is working to prevent a similar scenario, says Nkengasong. The panel emphasised the importance of researching how a vaccine might work because the African population has such a diverse genetic composition. As Zukiswa Pikoli writes, a clinical trial will be launched in 13 African countries to test three treatments.

Expert advisories: How to go on holiday safely and what to know about Long Covid

The Scientists Collective weighed in on two key topics this week: the practicalities of safely going on holiday, as well as the latest knowledge on Long Covid.

They say ‘yes, a summer holiday is possible at home or away in a time of Covid-19 in South Africa”. Here, they offer simple and practical rules to ensure a safe summer for all.

There is still much to be discovered about Long Covid – when someone experiences Covid-19 symptoms for more than 28 days. Here, South Africa’s leading scientists go through what is known and not known about this very real condition experienced by possibly millions of people around the world. DM/MC


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