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.