Tag Archive for: Second Wave

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), will pump R25 million towards the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) as scientists grapple with the new Covid-19 variant.

Higher Education, Science and Innovation minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, announced this on Friday, during a joint briefing with the Department of Health and scientists.

“This was in the wake of the latest surveillance results that shows a worrying trend of the highly transmittable Covid-19 variant first identified in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape, and moved to the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and is now the dominant and possibly the only Covid-19 variant responsible for the current surge,” said the department.

According to the department, the R25 million of the R45 million required over the next 12 months will help scientists to complete the sequencing of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) 10 000 genomes in South Africa and Africa.

A group of scientists discovered the new “unusual” coronavirus variant called 501.V2, which is spreading rapidly in the country.

According to health department minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, this variant is seeing a larger proportion of younger patients with no comorbidities develop serious illness.

“The evidence that has been collated, therefore, strongly suggests that that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant.”

The department said the grant will be used to understand the spread of Covid-19 and other virus lineages on the continent while also supporting the clinical and laboratory investigations of the genomic variation in the country.

“This is in line with the use of pathogen genomics for monitoring of transmission dynamics of infectious agents and potential vaccine escape is of crucial importance to South Africa, Africa and the world,” said minister Nzimande.

Nzimande said that these funds will be used to acquire equipment to automate the sequencing system and to buy reagents and other laboratory consumables.

Meanwhile, in April 2020, DSI through the Strategic Health Innovation Partnership funded KRISP for the project, ‘Spatial and Genomic monitoring of COVID-19 cases in South Africa to fight the flames before they become a wildfire’ to a tune of R10 million.

“This resulted in the establishment of the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa in June 2020, with the goal to sequence the genome of at least 10 000 SARS-CoV-2 samples to inform the public health response in South Africa, and to use spatial and genomic monitoring of Covid-19 cases to help the government to identify hotspots of transmission and control the local epidemic.”

Meanwhile, the minister said the next step is to get a better understanding of whether there is any clinical and epidemiological evidence to suggest increased transmissibility and/or pathogenicity of the virus and/or vaccine escape.

KRISP

KRISP was established in 2017, situated at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine.

The department describes KRISP as a cutting-edge genomics centre offering a range of DNA sequencing, precision medicine testing, bioinformatics services and technologies to academic, industrial and commercial users.

The centre is a platform of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), an agency of the DSI – a flagship programme of the South African Medical Research Council has established an excellent scientific infrastructure.

“Their vision is to challenge the status quo and establish one of the worlds most advanced and respected genetic sequencing platforms, to enable and support world-class genomics research and diagnostics services in Africa,” he said.

Nzimande said the consortium capacitated five key National Health Laboratory Services and their associated academic institutions to produce and analyse completely viral genomes in South Africa in near real-time.

The main investigators include Professor Tulio de Oliveira, Professor Carolyn Williamson, Dr Jinal Bhiman, Dr Nokukhanya Msomi, Professor Diana Hardie, Dr Marvin Hsiao, Professor Nicky Goedhals and Professor Susan Engelbrecht.

 

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South African Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize reported 9,445 new cases on Sunday evening (20 December), and 152 new deaths over the past 24 hours, as the virus continues its second wave of infection.

It follows 10,939 new virus cases and 254 more deaths in the country on Saturday, the Health Department said.

“As of today, the total number of confirmed #Covid-19 cases is 921,922, the total number of deaths is 24,691 and the total number of recoveries is 793,914, the minister said in a post on social media.

“Regrettably, 152 more Covid-19 related deaths have been reported: Eastern Cape 105 , Free State 5, Gauteng 1, Kwa-Zulu Natal 8, Mpumalanga 3 and Western Cape 30,” he said.

Mediclinic International said it’s struggling with capacity constraints as the country experiences a second wave of coronavirus infections, Bloomberg reported.

Patients seeking care within Mediclinic hospitals are exceeding previous numbers during the first peak, Gerrit de Villiers, a group general manager said in a statement. Demand in many intensive care and high care units have reached capacity, the company said.

Mediclinic said coronavirus patients had climbed from less than 100 admissions to more than 500 in a month in its facilities across the Western Cape.

“This dramatic increase in numbers within the Western Cape has placed very heavy strain on available healthcare resources including staff, equipment and available beds to provide intensive treatment for seriously ill patients,” it said. Elective or non-emergency surgery has been cancelled.

Mediclinic said it is increasing beds available to Covid-19 patients and reallocating resources.

The Western Cape pointed to a spike in new cases over the past week. “Over the last 7 days the Cape Metro has seen a 87% increase in Covid-19 cases, with Mitchells Plain recording a 101% increase, and Eastern subdistricts 97% increase, The Western Cape Government said.

 

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Cases Rising

SA recorded more than 8,100 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours – from December 9th to 10th – along with 173 fatalities.

“We wish to reiterate our plea to South Africans to heed the threat of the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases identified. There is clear evidence of an exponential rise in transmission and this is cause for serious concern,” said health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

He confirmed that 8,166 new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed infections countrywide to 836,764.

The confirmed cases come from 45,207 tests, at an infection rate of 18%.

Mkhize also reported 173 new Covid-19 related deaths in the past 24 hours. Of these, 90 were in the Eastern Cape, 52 were in the Western Cape, 13 in Gauteng, 10 in KwaZulu-Natal and eight in Gauteng.

There have now been 22,747 confirmed deaths linked to the coronavirus pandemic in SA.

To date, 756,671 recoveries have been recorded.

The bulk of the new cases came from the Western Cape (2,666) and Eastern Cape (2,187), following by KwaZulu-Natal (1,669) and Gauteng (1,234). The North West was next-highest, with just 105 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Second Wave

Health minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Wednesday that SA has entered a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

He was giving an update on the state of Covid-19 in SA, as infections continue to climb. SA has registered 828,598 Covid-19 cases since March, and 22,574 deaths.

Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape was recently declared a hotspot by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who announced the introduction of stricter measures there to help mitigate the further spread of the virus.

Key Quotes from the Minister’s Update

Drivers of the second wave

Mkhize said a spike in infections in four provinces was the main cause of the second wave.

“It is important for us to highlight that four provinces, being the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are the key drivers of this new wave. We looked at the number of tests done, the positivity rate and numbers of people who are admitted at fatalities. These show an indication of an increase.”

Eastern Cape and Western Cape severely affected, but it has spread

Mkhize said the increases in the last week were in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape but have since spread to four other provinces.

“Up to the past week or so, we had an increase in the Eastern Cape and in the Western Cape. There were specific districts which were affected. Now we are indicating that the numbers are increasing to involve more provinces. As of today, the increases are shown in about six of the provinces.”

How the other provinces are doing

The minister said the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape had more new cases than other provinces. The Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West each account for just 1% of the new infections, while the Northern Cape accounts for less than 1%.

“The Western Cape has 30% of the positive cases today, followed by the Eastern Cape, which is at 24%, and KwaZulu-Natal, which is 23%, and Gauteng province at 17%.”

Superspreader events

Mkhize said the peak age is now between 15 and 19. This is believed to be chiefly from events such as the Rage Festival attended by teenagers in Ballito, KZN recently. The health department declared the event a Covid-19 “superspreader”.

“This is a new issue and this is worrying. It is believed to be due to a large number of parties involving young people drinking alcohol with no adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions, wearing no masks, and social distancing and hand sanitising not taking place.”

“Prepare for a festive season with a difference”

The minister said the festive season should be enjoyed responsibly and with caution to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

“Yes, the festive season is a time for us to relax and enjoy with our families; we now need to understand that we have a responsibility to enjoy with various restraints.

“If your enjoyment will lead to more people being infected and being admitted to hospital, it’s not a responsible way to enjoy ourselves.”

 

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South Africa faces a high risk of resurging coronavirus infections that may lead to a review by the council deciding on lockdowns after new cases rose by 42% in Western Cape province in the last two weeks, the health minister said recently.

Zweli Mkhize said in a statement that the increase in infections and deaths “will inform the recommendations that the Health Department makes to the National Coronavirus Council”, the body that determines the different levels of lockdown restrictions.

“According to our resurgence plan, we define this significant spike in new cases in the Western Cape as a resurgence,” said Mkhize, adding that nationally infections in the last two weeks had risen 10.7%, which was also a “concerning trend”.

Mkhize said the cause of the spike in the Western Cape was a “super-spreader event” at a bar in southern Cape Town. The popular tourist city was originally the epicenter of South Africa’s first wave of infections.

Africa’s most advanced economy, which also has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the continent at more than 700,000 infections, eased lockdown restrictions to their lowest level in September as the rate of new cases fell.

It also opened its borders to international travelers at the beginning of October after a six-month ban, in what was one of the world’s strictest lockdowns that included restrictions on movement, economic activities and the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

The lockdown cost the country more than 2 million jobs in the second quarter, while the economy shrunk by its most on record.

To track worldwide cases via the Bing COVID map, click here.

 

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