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Japanese Flu Drug ‘Clearly Effective’ in Treating Coronavirus, Says China

Shares in Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, which developed favipiravir, surged after praise by Chinese official following clinical trials.

Medical authorities in China have said a drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appeared to be effective in coronavirus patients, Japanese media said on Wednesday.

Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, said favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, had produced encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients.

“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters on Tuesday.

Patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen turned negative for the virus after a median of four days after becoming positive, compared with a median of 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug, public broadcaster NHK said.

In addition, X-rays confirmed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients who were treated with favipiravir, compared to 62% or those without the drug.

Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, which developed the drug – also known as Avigan – in 2014, has declined to comment on the claims.

Shares in the firm surged on Wednesday following Zhang’s comments, closing the morning up 14.7% at 5,207 yen, having briefly hit their daily limit high of 5,238 yen.

Doctors in Japan are using the same drug in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms, hoping it will prevent the virus from multiplying in patients.

But a Japanese health ministry source suggested the drug was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms. “We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied,” the source told the Mainichi Shimbun.

The same limitations had been identified in studies involving coronavirus patients using a combination of the HIV antiretrovirals lopinavir and ritonavir, the source added.

In 2016, the Japanese government supplied favipiravir as an emergency aid to counter the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea.

Favipiravir would need government approval for full-scale use on Covid-19 patients, since it was originally intended to treat flu.

A health official told the Mainichi the drug could be approved as early as May. “But if the results of clinical research are delayed, approval could also be delayed.”

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
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Kenyan Closures of Government Offices and Registries: COVID-19 Update

Following President Kenyatta’s directives on Sunday 15 March 2020 on the coronavirus (COVID-19) interventions, a number of the Government offices and registries have scaled down their operations and in some cases completely shut down.

Please see a high level summary below, courtesy of DLA Piper Africa, IKM Advocates.

Land Offices and Registries

Directorate of Immigration Services (DIS)

Business Registration Service

To read President Kenyatta’s March 15th speech, click here.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
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South African COVID-19 Update

South African employers react: many employees now working from home.

The South African government has encouraged ‘social distancing’ as it grapples with coronavirus pandemic. A number of large South African companies have indicated that they will follow these restrictions and allow employees to work from home. Companies such as Old Mutual have reacted quickly, and already put such measures in place to protect the health of their employees. Labour law specialist, Natasha Moni, told Health-e that employers have to ensure that employees have a safe environment to work in.

Research by Jack Hammer, the US-based executive head-hunting firm with offices across Africa, says that of SA companies polled, 80% say they will offer remote working options to job candidates. Many employers cling to the idea that staff must be seen at all hours of the working day. As Esther Canónico, a UK-based author, researcher and consultant on organisational behaviour, says: “As far as some companies are concerned, if they don’t see a worker working, then that worker is not working.”

Wits Business School professor Bhekinkosi Moyo thinks the problem is particularly prevalent in Africa. “This whole thing of going to the office and seeing people says to me that while the rest of the world is caught up in the fourth industrial revolution, our leaders are stuck in the second,” he says. “They measure people’s performance by how long they spend in the office. We need a strong culture shock.” Covid-19, as devastating as it may be, could provide that shock. “If it wasn’t this virus, it would be something else,” says Moyo. “Something has to give.”

Shoprite, Woolworths and Pick n Pay are rationing these items because of coronavirus panic buying

The Shoprite Group says it has begun rationing certain products as consumers have not heeded the call to refrain from stockpiling. The group said it would now ration certain products to ensure that all customers have access. This includes toilet paper, tissues, wipes, liquid soap, hand sanitizer, canned food, painkillers, and cereals. “Sixty60 orders have been limited to a maximum of 30 items and individual products are limited to three per customer. This facilitates quicker order fulfilment and enables more customers to be served with necessities at home.”

Woolworths said it has seen an increase in sales of certain products and are working to meet the demand. “To ensure enough products for everyone, we have set a limit of 5 units per product per customer. We will continue to replenish our products regularly,” it said.

Pick n Pay has indicated that where stocks were temporarily low due to heavy customer demand, it would be limiting the number of certain products per customer. “Understandably, as customers act on the advice about effective hygiene measures, they are stocking up on household cleaning and personal hygiene products,” said chief executive officer Richard Brasher.

Pick n Pay will open all its supermarkets and hypermarkets an hour earlier every Wednesday for elderly customers to shop for their groceries and essentials. The initiative will start on Wednesday (18 March) and stores will be open exclusively for customers over the age of 65 years from 07h00 – 08h00. Customers should have a valid ID to enter the store during this time, Pick n Pay said.

New coronavirus laws

Government has published new regulations empowering it to act on declarations made to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during the state of disaster. Authorities can now break up unsanctioned gatherings, and take legal action against those who endanger themselves and others. This includes people who spread fake news, fake illness, deliberately infect others, or business who sell alcohol after 18h00, or don’t limit crowds.

According to the new regulations anyone who creates or spreads fake news about Covid-19 can be prosecuted. It therefore applies to both the creators of fake Covid-19 news and those who spread the news through social media and other channels.

Any person who intentionally misrepresents that he, she or any other person is infected with Covid-19 is also guilty of an offence. On conviction this person is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both a fine and imprisonment. The new regulations have also introduced severe punishment for people who intentionally expose others to the coronavirus. Deliberate spreading of Covid-19 would result in the person being charged with either assault, attempted murder or murder. It further prohibits any person who is infected with Covid-19, or is suspected to be infected, to refuse to be examined, treated or be isolated or quarantined.

SARS makes changes due to coronavirus

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) has announced a number of changes as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Taxpayers are discouraged to come into branches and are advised to make use of online digital channels for all engagements. The majority of business can be done on the SARS eFiling platform: www.sarsefiling.co.za.

The mobiApp in addition to Personal Income Tax functionality provides additional information which SARS encourages you to download through an app store (Google Play or Apple Store). The SARS website (www.sars.gov.za) will also be regularly updated with news and announcements. If you still need to visit a SARS tax branch, strict adherence to social distancing and general hygiene practices will be applied.

SA Express suspends all operations due to coronavirus

In light of adverse recent developments including the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, SA Express said that it will suspend operations from 18 March 2020 until further notice. The airline said that this decision will impact both SA Express customers and staff in the following manner: all customers will be accommodated on alternative flights, and all non-critical SA Express staff will be placed on compulsory leave during this time.

South African universities close early over coronavirus fears

Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande has announced that all post school institutions will be closed for early recess from 18 March, in line with government’s plans to prevent further spread of the coronavirus in South Africa. This will include the normal institutional break that was coming in the next few weeks, with the minister noting that some institutions have already implemented this particular plan.

Several universities had already suspended contact lectures following the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic as a state of disaster in South Africa. Currently, the plan is to return from this break on 15 April 2020, just after the Easter weekend; however, Nzimande said that the exact dates for coming back will be based on the assessment of the severity of the coronavirus in South Africa.

Disaster Management Act

To read the full statement from the Department of Home Affairs, relating to measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19, click here.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Rwanda Update: COVID-19 Measures

This information is courtesy of Equity Juris Chambers and DLA Piper Africa.

The Rwandan Ministry of Health has issued a statement on COVID-19 measures in the country, which you can read below.

The Rwandan National Intelligence and Security Service has issued its own statement, which is below.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Latest South African Department of Home Affairs Directive for COVID-19

In line with President Ramaphosas’ statement dated 15 March 2020 and latest instructions from the DHA, the following should be noted.

Foreign nationals who are currently not in SA

Visa exemptions granted in terms of section 10A(4)(a) of the SA Immigration Act, enjoyed by foreign nationals from the high risk countries, including China, France, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the US, and the UK, is withdrawn with immediate effect, until further notice. Foreign nationals arriving in SA after 18 March 2020, from these countries, will be refused entry.

Visa exemptions granted in terms of section 10A(4)(a) of the SA Immigration Act, enjoyed by foreign nationals from the medium risk countries (you may list them), is withdrawn with immediate effect., until further notice. Foreign nationals from these countries, must first apply for and be issued with a visa and such visa application will be subject to a medical report, attesting to the fact that the applicant has tested negative for the COVID-19.

Port of entry visas which were issued to citizens of China and Iran, on or before 15 March 2020, for the purpose of visiting SA, is cancelled with immediate effect and is declared null and void.

Any foreign national whose passport contains evidence that that visited the high risk countries, since 15 March 2020, will not be issued with port of entry visas or temporary residence visas.

Foreign nationals who are currently in SA

Foreign nationals who are currently in SA and who originates from one of the countries affected by the covid-19 outbreak, or who, in order to reach their destination of origin, needs to transit through and affected country and whose temporary residence visa is due to expire, or had already expired, may apply for an extension of such visa, which extension may be granted until 31 July 2020, on condition that they are able to comply with all requirements. If one is unable to comply with one or more of the requirements, one may apply to the Minister in the prescribed manner, to waive such requirement. It should further be noted that no change of status or condition will be considered / allowed.

Foreign nationals who are currently in SA and who originates from one of the countries affected by the covid-19 outbreak, or who, in order to reach their destination of origin, needs to transit through and affected country and who is / was the holder of a temporary residence visa which expired between 1 December 2019 and 31 March 2020, may apply for an extension of such visa, without the need to first obtain a form 20 (authorization for an illegal foreigner to remain in SA pending the application for status).

The above-mentioned concessions are only applicable to foreign nationals who have been legally admitted into SA and is applicable until further notice.

For further information, please contact the Department of Home Affairs, or your local embassy or consulate.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].