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Tag: Coronavirus

Businesses Can Legally Demand The Wearing Of Masks

Businesses and other entities still have the right to request the mandatory wearing of masks on their premises, according to  Health Minister Joe Phaahla, who on Thursday outlined why the government has dropped the last remaining COVID-19 regulations.

This includes the mandatory wearing of masks, limitations on the number of people allowed to gather, and vaccination proof or a negative PCR test required for travellers at ports of entry.

Even though the wearing of masks indoors has been scrapped, Phaahla said schools, old age homes, and other places could still require people to wear them.

“If you run a facility, you have the right to determine regulations – whether you run a shop, a restaurant, a hotel – you can have your own regulations that you are comfortable with and your clients are happy with as well.”

The minister said the government did not have a say in the decisions of individual entities.

“A school governing body, for example, may decide that for the purpose of their school, they are happy with their children wearing masks. That’s the school policy, but it’s not the government policy. I think we must just make that distinction.”

Some scientists said if fitted and worn properly, face masks did help to reduce the spread of the coronavirus considerably.

UK Removes SA from Travel Red List

South Africa is to be removed from the UK government’s travel red list, along with ten other countries. This has been confirmed by UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid and will come into effect at 6am South African time on Wednesday morning.

South Africa, along with Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are on the list of countries.

The controversial move by the UK to place South Africa on the list was heavily criticised as being premature and unfair as the Omicron coronavirus variant is prevalent in many countries. It was even hailed as racist by some.

Javid said that all 11 countries on the travel red list would be removed, saying that the system had been shown to be ineffective in slowing the spread of the variant.

The health secretary told the House of Commons that the countries would be removed on Wednesday morning, so that passengers from those nations would no longer have to isolate in a government-approved quarantine hotel.

But he said that the temporary testing measures for everyone arriving in the UK from overseas would remain for now.

Javid said that he asked for “urgent advice” about whether people currently in hotel quarantine could be released.

Covid Fourth Wave – What to expect

With the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections expected to hit the country in December 2021 and into January 2022, South Africa’s vaccination programme is in a race against time, says the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA).

Based on the analysis of Covid-19 experiences in South Africa and several other countries at different stages of managing the pandemic, ASSA believes that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that a fourth wave is most likely to emerge in December.

The severity will most likely depend on whether South Africa achieves its vaccination targets, it said. As of Sunday, 24 October 2021, only 29% of South Africa’s adult population was fully vaccinated. This falls far short of the target of 67% by the end of 2021.

South Africa applies a 42-day waiting period between the first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which means that unvaccinated South Africans will have to get their first jab before the end of October to be considered fully vaccinated with Pfizer at the end of December.  People quality as fully vaccinated two weeks after their second Pfizer dose or after their single Johnson & Johnson jab.

Adam Lowe, a member of the ASSA Covid-19 Working Group, says while it is unlikely that South Africa will avoid the fourth wave of infections, the severity will depend on whether the country is successful in building immunity in the majority of the adult population through widespread vaccination.

South Africa’s experience could mirror that of many countries with large-scale vaccine rollouts, most notably the United Kingdom, with a significant wave of cases but only a muted wave of severe infections and deaths. Achieving this would require many people to come forward very quickly to be vaccinated.

“The logistics of the rollout would have to be significantly enhanced to ensure vaccines reach especially the rural and less technologically enabled population, as well as overcoming the vaccine hesitancy and outright anti-vaccine sentiment which still exists.”

What can SA expect from a fourth wave?

An analysis of experiences in other countries by the ASSA Covid -19 Working Group shows that a high vaccination rate appears to have a material impact on the severity of Covid-19 infection waves.

Italy and Germany, for example, appear to be at the beginning of their respective fourth waves, but without significant peaks in either cases or deaths yet. In Italy, 73.5% of the population is fully vaccinated, while Germany is at 66.7%.

Lowe added that a study of the United Kingdom and the US indicates a similar scenario where case numbers remain high but severe infection and death rates are still comparatively low.

He said that the UK and the US achieved relatively high vaccine rollouts and significantly eased lockdown restrictions before the onset of their third waves. In the UK, 71.3% of the population is vaccinated, and in the US, fully vaccinated people account for 64.5% of the population.

Lowe said the statistics from the UK and the US seem to indicate that vaccination rates play a role in reducing severe infection leading to illness and death even in a population where the virus continues to spread. The two countries that appear to be out of sync with the wave patterns experienced by the rest of the world, however, are India and Brazil.

Both appear to be experiencing one huge infection wave with no discernible wave patterns. Only 37.4% of the population is fully vaccinated in India, while Brazil has vaccinated 69.4%. Both are also among the most populated countries in the world.

However, data is emerging that shows that some countries have weakened the link between cases and deaths through a comprehensive vaccine rollout. This does not discount that increasing levels of natural immunity also play a role but suggests that vaccination provides a more certain method of ensuring widespread immunity in a population and managing population immunity over time as infection levels vary.

Lowe explained that in modelling the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, it has become evident that the key drivers determining the waves of Covid-19 infection are:

  • The infectiousness and transmissibility of the particular virus variant prevalent in a population;
  • Population behaviour that influences the spread of the virus, such as gatherings, mask-wearing, and social movement; and
  • The degree of immunity already presents in the population, whether acquired through vaccination or previous infection with the virus.

Ramaphosa to Address the Nation Tonight

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation at 20:00 on Thursday night on developments in the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown.

The address follows the president’s meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council, the president’s Coordinating Council, and Cabinet.

The president addressed the nation earlier this month, where he eased COVID-19 regulations and moved the country down to lockdown level 2 after a drop in the number of infections.

Covid-19 Deaths Remains High with 160 Recorded

With 160 more fatalities recorded over the past 24-hour cycle, South Africa’s COVID-19 death toll has now risen to 86,376.

Over the same period of time, 2,197 more tests also came back as positive, with the country’s caseload reaching 2 743 865.

On the vaccine front, 16 358 076 jabs have been administered in South Africa so far.

Gauteng Begins Door to Door Vaccination Strategy

The Department of Health in Gauteng has had to develop more innovative strategies as people in the most populous province in the country have not been showing up at vaccination sites to get their jabs.

Gauteng is trailing behind the more rural provinces such as Limpopo and the Eastern Cape when it comes to vaccinating its citizens.   According to statistics, the Eastern Cape has the highest number of adults vaccinated in the country at 32.84%. Limpopo managed to vaccinate 31.79%, and the Free State has also had high vaccination turnouts with 30.24% of its adult population getting the jab.

Meanwhile, Gauteng has only managed to vaccinate 25% of all adults in the province. The province aims to vaccinate at least 10 million people by December 2021.

Since the pandemic started in 2020,  19 102 people have died in the province. Currently, there are 2 665 hospitalized in the province.  Kwara Kekana, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Health says this has led the province to try new ways to persuade people to get the jab.

The department started setting up pop-up sites at taxi ranks, workplaces, and other places where people congregate to bolster vaccination rates.   Kekana says from these events, they realised that hesitancy was brought on by several factors, including widespread fake news, concerns about the side effects of the vaccines, and inadequate information.

Professor Alex van den Heever, a health and social security expert, says it is not easy to determine why Gauteng is not attracting as many people for vaccination as the other provinces.

“I think the Gauteng department of health is not a strong administration. However, it is also the province with the largest population. Hesitancy may explain some of this. But it does take an active process to pull in the numbers. Rather than just setting up and waiting.”

The pop-up sites have been working and Kekana said they were, “… encouraged by the figures”. The department has managed to administer more than a million doses from the end of August to date.

The department is now moving the vaccination drive to people’s doorsteps. They have now started door-to-door campaigns for inoculation. The provincial sports department on Saturday,   will host a vaccination event at Altitude Beach in Fourways, where artists like Prince Kaybee and Lamiez Holworthy will be performing.

Kekana says: “The provincial government has been engaged in a drive to take the vaccines to where people are, and this forms part of those efforts to increase the number of sites, and have more sites in communities apart from the non-clinical sites.”

Gauteng has only administered around four million Covid-19 vaccine doses to approximately three million people.

Lockdown Restrictions To Be Relaxed

A continued decline in South Africa’s Covid-19 statistics and the recent comments from health officials indicate that the South African government could relax lockdown restrictions for South Africa in the coming weeks, said economists from the Bureau for Economic Research (BER).

The group referred to comments by the Department of Health on Friday (3 September), with Joe Phaala, the minister of health, stating that as soon as there is a sustained decrease in infections, he would advise the president to relax restrictions.

“Given the recent positive trends in new Covid-19 cases in most provinces, a further loosening of lockdown restrictions could follow in the next week or so.

“The ministry also confirmed that sufficient stocks are now available to vaccinate everyone who needs a jab: if enough people would show up, South Africa is able to do between 300,000 and 400,000 shots per day.”

Last week, the country vaccinated about 250,000 people per weekday. However, vaccination rates over weekends remain considerably lower. Only about one in four adults are vaccinated, with around 16% of the adult population fully vaccinated.

The government is not currently planning to make vaccinations mandatory, but the health minister said they were looking into what he called  ‘soft’ incentives to encourage vaccinations  – such as given access to specific events to vaccinated people only.

The BER said that more South African companies would likely introduce mandatory policies as the rollout of the vaccination process continues.

“Discovery was the first JSE-listed company to mandate vaccinations for all staff, as of the start of 2022, and will in due course likely be followed by more local companies with many international businesses already mandating vaccines for employees,” it said.

The government reviews lockdown restrictions on a weekly basis and is encouraged by the declining number of Covid-19 cases seen in the country, said health minister Joe Phaahla. Addressing members of the media on Friday, Phaahla said an analysis would be conducted by the health department and the Coivd-19 ministerial advisory committees in the coming days.

If there is indeed a sustained decline, the government will ease restrictions, he said. Phaahla also said the two key concerns are KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, with the rest of the country seeing steady declines.

“We will continue to assess this and will give a report to president Cyril Ramaphosa and the team of leaders in the next week. If it becomes clear that there is stability and the infection rates are definitely stabilising, we will give the necessary advice.

“You can look forward to some more relaxations – but there will still be a responsibility on us to follow the protocols.”

Huisgenoot did report a ‘coronavirus outbreak’ in 2003 – but not Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic caused by a “novel” coronavirus discovered in China in December 2019 has locked down countries across the world and killed more than 1.9 million people as of 11 January 2021.

Huisgenoot wrote about a “supervirus” discovered in China as far back as 2003.  Was this a prediction?

In early 2021, several Facebook posts have shared copies of pages from what appears to be a 2003 issue of Huisgenoot that discuss “’n agressiewe variant van die corona-virus” – “an aggressive variant of the coronavirus”.

Several posters speculated that the magazine had already reported on “this” coronavirus – “Huisgenoot alreeds berig oor hierdie corona virus” – and suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic is the “exact same thing all over again”.

There are Facebook posts about the older Huisgenoot article from as early as May 2020, but since newer posts on the same topic were published in the first week of January 2021, these earlier posts have also seen hundreds of thousands of new views.  Did Huisgenoot report on “this coronavirus” in 2003? And is Covid-19 the “same thing all over again?”

A tale of two viruses

It is difficult to discern the date on the magazine cover in many of the images shared, but these close-up photos confirm the article was in the 10 April 2003 issue.  The article is about “ernstige akute asemhalingsindroom (EAAS)”, Afrikaans for “severe acute respiratory syndrome”, or Sars.

Sars is caused by a coronavirus, a family of viruses named for the “crown” or shape of the spikes on their outer surface. Corona is Latin for crown. The virus that causes Sars is named “Sars-associated coronavirus” or “Sars-CoV”.

It was first discovered in February 2003 when a series of Sars infections were reported in China. The disease spread to several other countries in an epidemic that was never declared a pandemic. Only 8,098 people were diagnosed with Sars, and 774 died.

Covid-19 is caused by a different but closely related coronavirus, named “Sars-CoV-2”. This virus was first reported in China in December 2019, and later detected in other countries.

Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 12 March 2020, at which point 125,260 cases and 4,613 deaths had been identified worldwide.

The bigger picture

Because they are so closely related and share such similar names and origin, it can be easy to confuse the virus that causes Sars with the virus that causes Covid-19. But these simple mistakes have played into a broader trend of misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

False claims that the pandemic was predicted by a number of historical figures, for example, have informed conspiracy theories that the disease was artificially created.

Huisgenoot did report on the 2003 Sars outbreak caused by a coronavirus. But this was not the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, a far deadlier disease. The 2003 article was not prophetic.

Mayor Tests Positive for Covid-19

The City of Tshwane has called on residents to be extremely vigilant and to protect themselves and their loved ones against Covid-19 after Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Randall Williams, tested positive for the virus. With the City’s first citizen now working from home due to the virus, the City has challenged residents to rise above the doubts and recognise that anybody can be infected with the Coronavirus.

Tshwane City chief of staff Jordan Griffiths has pleaded with Tshwane residents to comply with all regulations to assist in the battle against the third wave: “The executive mayor has been working remotely and managing all engagements with stakeholders online. He will continue to isolate and work remotely until his health improves. Please continue to adhere to the relevant Covid-19 protocols and guidelines and stay safe.”

A spokesperson for the City of Tshwane Lindela Mashigo said the City’s Covid-19 Ward-Based Outreach Campaign would continue this week by visiting all seven regions as it intensifies the screening and testing of communities in areas identified as current hot spots. This drive will start today in the Zorbas Shopping Centre at 757 President Steyn Street, Wolmer; then move to Zithobeni Municipal Offices, corner of Mothibe and Mngomezulu Streets tomorrow; and Refilwe Shopping Centre on MJ Runo Drive opposite Refilwe Community Complex on Wednesday.

City health workers on Thursday will be deployed to Castle Gate on 478 Koedoesnek Avenue in Waterkloof Ridge; Moreleta Park NG Church in 1353 De Villebois Mereuil Drive in Pretorius Park and Deon Malherbe Swembad on the corner of Braam Pretorius Streets in Wonderboom on Friday. The last outreach of the week is scheduled for Saturday at the Hillcrest Boulevard Shopping Centre in Lynnwood Road.

The head of Strategic Communication in the City, Selby Bokaba, said that Tshwane’s Covid-19 ward-based outreach campaign has managed to reach more than 27 000 members of the community in the past four months as part of its Covid-19 education and awareness programme through its mobile testing sites.

Jacob Zuma Sentenced to Death

On Sunday the former South African President Jacob Zuma said the decision of the Constitutional Court essentially sentenced him without a trial, and sending him to jail was nothing less than a death sentence. Jacob Zuma in a public address, live from his Nkandla home on Sunday night, spoke on matters pertaining to his jail sentence. A majority ruling by the Constitutional Court decided that he was in contempt of court for not attending the commission and sentenced him to 15 months behind bars.

“The death sentence was declared unconstitutional in South Africa in 1995. As a result of my sacrifice and those of millions of South Africans,” he said. “Sending me to jail during the height of a pandemic at my age is the same as sentencing me to death,” he said.

When asked why he himself was not wearing a mask when he met supporters earlier in the day nor during the press address, his spokesperson Mzwandile Manyi intervened.

“I think it’s important for you to do a bit of research first and understand that sometimes when you have a medical condition, there’s an issue between you and the mask. So you put it on, you pull it off. Doctors regulate that kind of a thing. So the fact that the president is not wearing a mask might very well be a medical condition which is a confidential condition, which he can’t disclose here,” Manyi said, adding that the media was “pointing fingers” while also not sticking to regulations by being present.

Zuma also addressed his supporters earlier on Sunday outside his house, telling them that he was not aware of any transgressions by him despite the ruling. He accused Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of being biased against him.

“I made a submission to Judge Zondo, pointing out exact details to support my contention that he is not neutral. He also made his own submission to disprove my contention and subsequently ruled that his own submission is victorious. This then meant that I was now forced to appear before somebody I have accused of bias and conflict of interest,” Zuma said.

“Had Judge Zondo simply recused himself and allowed my submission to be made to somebody neutral, the people of South Africa would have heard my version as regards all the unsubstantiated allegations against me,” he said.

Zuma also used his address to attack the government’s handling of the pandemic, comparing the COVID-19 lockdown to what happened during apartheid. Lockdowns in line with the different alert levels of the coronavirus pandemic have been vital to managing the spread of the deadly virus.

“We have a level four lockdown, with all hallmarks of a state of emergency, and the curfews of the 1980s. The only difference is that we only use different levels, like contempt of court instead of detention without trial. But the substance is exactly the same. Being jailed without a trial is no different to the apartheid detention without trial.”

 

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Tame Communications (known as tame TIMES) was established in 2009. This long-established popular community title includes the key shopping centres:  Alberton City, Mal...

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