Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS WEEKLY DIGEST #14

The matric party’s over as second wave of Covid-19 hits SA

(Photo: Unsplash/Marcela Laskoski)

As of Thursday, 836,764 Covid-19 cases have been reported, 8,166 of them new. This week the health minister confirmed South Africa is experiencing a second wave of infections, while superspreader events such as Matric Rage were cancelled and details of a nationwide seroprevalence survey were released.

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

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has announced that a second wave of infections has hit South Africa. Infection rates are surging in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Ballito Rage has been labelled a Covid superspreader event while the Joburg, Jeffreys Bay and Plettenberg Bay events have been cancelled. Mkhize sounded the alarm at the weekend that there had been a spike in Covid-19 cases among students attending year-end Rage events in Ballito Bay. He urged all attendees to be quarantined and tested. Among those infected were four Rage staff members. 

‘Please save us’: Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape

Doctors without Borders has urged the government to send medics to Covid-19 hotspots. The organisation is running a Covid-19 ward in Nelson Mandela Bay and has appealed to the government to strengthen its national emergency response capacity to deploy doctors.

Activist Gary van Niekerk has made a plea to allow citizens to report lockdown violations in Covid-19 hotspots. Following a decision by the National Coronavirus Command Council to declare Nelson Mandela Bay a coronavirus hotspot and impose additional restrictions on social gatherings and the sale of alcohol, as well as a 10pm curfew, Van Niekerk pleaded with President Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure law enforcement in the city includes residents. He wants improved law enforcement in the metro and community leaders to be able to report those who break lockdown laws.

Estelle Ellis reports that the Eastern Cape health MEC’s figures for Covid-19 patients in intensive care do not add up. On the eve of the arrival of a high-level national government delegation in Nelson Mandela Bay on 25 November, Sindiswa Gomba insisted there were 38 patients in the public-sector ICUs – but the metro’s state hospital only had space for 12.

The problem with efficacy

In the fast-paced world of Covid vaccines November was particularly busy. The early data of four jabs were announced, with most showing efficacy of 90% or higher. But the data we have so far are not final. These results were shared in press releases, not in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Although the urgent need for a vaccine has necessitated the release of the data as they become available, the figures can change as they go through more checks and balances. Aisha Abdool Karim reports.

Johnson & Johnson chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels says building new Covid-19 vaccine capacity in South Africa and elsewhere would have taken three to five years. Instead, to quickly meet demand the company will produce it at three existing plants before shipping it to six centres across the world. The plants include Aspen’s Port Elizabeth factory, for fill and finish. Laura Lopez Gonzalez reports.

Understanding the scope and spread of Covid-19

James Stent writes that blood samples will be taken from up to 19,000 people across all provinces in the Human Sciences Research Council’s (HSRC’s) two-phase Covid-19 seroprevalence survey.

The HSRC has released details of the survey, which joins several other efforts under way or soon to begin. These surveys will bridge the gap in our understanding of the true extent of the spread of Covid-19.

The surveys test people for the antibodies to the virus (SARS-Cov-2) that causes Covid-19. They can help estimate the percentage of the population that has been infected.

The University of the Witwatersrand has teamed up with York University, Canada, on an artificial intelligence project that can be another tool to tackle the pandemic in Africa. The project will be used for predictive modelling and forecasting. DM/MC

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