WHO de­clares Covid-19 a pan­demic

Most likely to die if they show signs of cer­tain con­di­tions


THE World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) has of­fi­cially de­clared the coro­n­avirus, or Covid-19, out­break a pan­demic.

At least 4 300 peo­ple have died from the virus glob­ally, with about 125 000 con­firmed in­fec­tions in more than 100 coun­tries.

As of yes­ter­day, more than 3 000 deaths had been re­ported in China, while Italy was on lock­down with more than 600 cases con­firmed.

“We are deeply con­cerned both by the alarm­ing lev­els of spread and sever­ity and by the alarm­ing lev­els of in­ac­tion.

“We have there­fore made the as­sess­ment that Covid-19 can be char­ac­terised as a pan­demic. In the past two weeks, the num­ber of cases of Covid-19 out­side China has in­creased 13-fold and the num­ber of af­fected coun­tries has tripled,” said WHO di­rec­tor-gen­eral Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus yes­ter­day.

Health Min­is­ter Dr Zweli Mkhize yes­ter­day con­firmed six new Covid19 cases, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of in­fec­tions to 13.

All of the new cases of the in­fected are peo­ple who have trav­elled back to South Africa from Europe. Four of them are in Gaut­eng, one in KwaZulu-Natal and an­other in the Western Cape.

“All the pa­tients have now been ad­vised. Those who are symp­to­matic have started re­ceiv­ing treat­ment. Some of these pa­tients are al­ready in hospi­tal while some, specif­i­cally those who are asymp­to­matic, are in self-quar­an­tine.

“Con­tact trac­ing has also started for all these cases. It is also note­wor­thy that to date, 642 tests have been con­ducted. More in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to these cases will be com­mu­ni­cated,” said the min­is­ter. The lat­est fig­ures came two days af­ter he had an­nounced four new in­fec­tions on Mon­day.

De­spite Mkhize’s calls for cit­i­zens not to panic, how­ever, shops which have di­rect busi­ness in­ter­ests with China, the epi­cen­tre of the virus, have been hit hard in their pock­ets.

The con­stant fear of the virus has ex­tended to the Chi­nese Con­sulate of­fices at Sand­ton City. The of­fice is usu­ally busy with trav­ellers and busi­ness peo­ple seek­ing visas to go to China, but yes­ter­day there was not even a sin­gle per­son mak­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion in the morn­ing. The staff had been wear­ing masks and gloves sit­ting at their work sta­tions.

Mean­while, the SANDF air­craft to repa­tri­ate more than 100 South African cit­i­zens from Wuhan, China, left the coun­try on Tues­day night. It had 15 of­fi­cials from the Depart­ment of Health and SANDF on board.

SANDF spokesper­son Sim­phiwe Dlamini said R20 mil­lion was given to Par­lia­ment as per a re­quire­ment of the de­ploy­ment of the troops in any mis­sion, be it in­ter­nally or ex­ter­nally.

Dlamini added that those be­ing repa­tri­ated had made the re­quest to the gov­ern­ment. They will have to pay their own costs to re­turn to China when the virus is un­der con­trol.

“They will sign dis­claimers that stip­u­late all they need to know and their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties thereof and those of gov­ern­ment,” said Dlamini.

WITH THE num­ber of re­ported “iso­lated” Covid-19 cases grow­ing in South Africa, one can only com­mend the coun­try’s cit­i­zens for tak­ing it upon them­selves to re­port to health­care cen­tres should they sus­pect hav­ing been ex­posed to the coro­n­avirus.

The Na­tional Min­is­ter of Health, Zweli Mkhize, yes­ter­day an­nounced that there had been the first lab­o­ra­tory-con­firmed case of Covid-19 in the Western Cape af­ter a 36-year-old man in the City of Cape Town pre­sented him­self to a pri­vate health­care fa­cil­ity with flu-like symp­toms and a re­cent travel his­tory to Europe.

This af­ter the City of Cape Town an­nounced this week that it was pre­pared for Covid-19, af­ter hav­ing re­ceived nu­mer­ous ques­tions about its pre­pared­ness to deal with any po­ten­tial cases.

The City said it had also noted an in­crease in the num­ber of en­quiries about the stag­ing of events, par­tic­u­larly with in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion, given the ex­tent of Covid-19 in some coun­tries to date.

“We take safety at events very se­ri­ously and we are work­ing with all event or­gan­is­ers and the Western Cape Gov­ern­ment to en­sure the med­i­cal plans, as part of the event per­mit­ting process, take into con­sid­er­a­tion the coro­n­avirus. As it stands, Cape Town is open for busi­ness. We will be ad­vised by the rel­e­vant health au­thor­i­ties on a case to case ba­sis.”

PEO­PLE who have the new coro­n­avirus are most likely to die if they are older or show signs of cer­tain pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, while chil­dren might be less likely to be­come in­fected or, if in­fected, may show milder symp­toms than adults.

That’s ac­cord­ing to a study that fol­lowed a small group of peo­ple in­fected with the Covid-19 virus, re­ported in the New Sci­en­tist.

Early on in the out­break, two hos­pi­tals in Wuhan, China, were des­ig­nated to treat peo­ple in­fected with the coro­n­avirus. Un­til Fe­bru­ary 1, peo­ple who were di­ag­nosed with the virus in other hos­pi­tals in the city were trans­ferred to one of the two for care.

By the end of Jan­uary, 191 adults had been treated for the virus and ei­ther been dis­charged or died at the two hos­pi­tals.

Bin Cao at the China-Ja­pan Friend­ship Hospi­tal and Cap­i­tal Med­i­cal Univer­sity in Bei­jing and his col­leagues as­sessed these cases, look­ing for pat­terns in the char­ac­ter­is­tics of those who sur­vived the virus and those who didn’t.

Death was more likely in peo­ple who had di­a­betes or coronary heart dis­ease. Older peo­ple were more likely to die, as were those show­ing signs of sep­sis or blood clot­ting prob­lems.

Over­all, more than half of those hos­pi­talised with the virus de­vel­oped sep­sis, the New Sci­en­tist re­ported.

“Poorer out­comes in older peo­ple may be due, in part, to the age-re­lated weak­en­ing of the im­mune sys­tem and in­creased in­flam­ma­tion that could pro­mote vi­ral repli­ca­tion and more pro­longed re­sponses to in­flam­ma­tion, caus­ing last­ing dam­age to the heart, brain and other or­gans,” said study co-au­thor, Zhibo Liu.

JEAL­OUS Coro­n­avirus is a mu­sic video cre­ated by Viet­nam’s health depart­ment and has gone vi­ral on a num­ber of con­tent-shar­ing plat­forms. Health of­fi­cials in sev­eral south-east Asian coun­tries have a novel way of deal­ing with the coro­n­avirus. They are join­ing hands with cre­ative teams to pro­duce public ser­vice an­nounce­ments that urge hand­wash­ing, so­cial dis­tanc­ing and other best prac­tices to com­bat the deadly virus.

DUTCH Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte had just gone on TV to tell peo­ple to stop shak­ing hands to help com­bat coro­n­avirus when he im­me­di­ately broke the new rule. ‘From now on we stop shak­ing hands,’ he said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence. Rutte then turned and shook the hand of Jaap van Dis­sel, the head of the Dutch Cen­tre for In­fec­tious Dis­ease Con­trol.

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