South Africa | LIVE | Winde slams Mkhize's statement on Wester Cape spike, US sets new single-day record for Covid cases

Covid-19: Mkhize's talk of a Western Cape spike is reckless, says Winde

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has slammed Health Minister Zweli Mkhize's statement that the province had a 42% spike in new Covid-19 cases. 

He said Mkhize's comment was "reckless" as the province had a 13% increase.

He added the province had worked "damn hard" to manage the pandemic. 

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Coronavirus morning recap: Vaccine hesitancy, 'silent' mutations, and worrying situation in Europe

Beliefs about origins of the virus play a big role in vaccine hesitancy; Covid-19's evolutionary edge; and WHO concerned over surge in cases in northern hemisphere.

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US sets single-day record for Covid-19 cases during new surge with over 84 000 new infections

More than 84 000 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 across the United States on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, a record one-day increase in infections during the pandemic as the virus surges again nationwide.

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With an increase of 1 897 coronavirus cases, the number of infections in South Africa now stand at 712 412.

Another 48 deaths were recorded bringing the number of fatalities to 18 891.

The recovery rate is 90% with 643 523 recoveries.

Covid-19: Most SA universities aim to complete academic year in 2021, education committee hears

 - Very few South African universities will complete the 2020 academic year before the end of the current calendar year.

 - Currently, 16 universities are expected to complete the 2020 academic year between January and March 2021.

 - Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande has said the completion of the academic year is key to the country's economic recovery plan.



Covid-19 wrap | Germany readies for vaccine before end of year, Poland restricts gatherings to 5

 - India's coronavirus infections reached a total of 7.76 million, with 54 366 new cases being reported in the last 24 hours.

 - Germany is making preparations to start vaccinations against the coronavirus before the end of the year, Bild daily reported.

 - Traces of Covid-19 can be successfully detected in sewage, helping to give health officials an early warning of local outbreaks of the virus.


Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy: Beliefs about origins of virus play a big role

Public opinion data shows a high level of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy around the world, based on a wide array of erroneous beliefs.

Creating safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines and making them available worldwide in 2021 is only half the battle. Even if these vaccines become available, they will only work to protect the population if enough people are immunised. The other half of the battle is going to be to get the majority of the global population to accept these vaccines.

Findings from a study by UCL and Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey show that more than a third of people (34%) in Turkey and a sixth of people (17%) in the UK are "hesitant" about a Covid-19 vaccine.

The findings are based on the responses of over 5 000 participants in Turkey and the UK about their willingness to be vaccinated against Covid-19, and included discussions around their beliefs about the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease.


'Silent' mutations gave Covid-19 virus an evolutionary edge

Scientists have been looking at RNA folding to pinpoint why SARS-CoV-2 has become so much harder to stop after its spillover from bats to humans.

Understanding the features of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is crucial for predicting the future, and in a recent study, scientists may have come one step closer.

According to Duke University (DU) researchers, a number of "silent" mutations in the roughly 30 000 letters of the virus’s genetic code may have given it an advantage and caused it to thrive in the human population after crossing over from bats and other wild animals.

"We're trying to figure out what made this virus so unique," said lead author Alejandro Berrio, a postdoctoral associate in biologist Greg Wray's lab at DU.

In their paper, they explain how the subtle changes, or mutations, influenced how the virus unfolded its RNA molecules within human cells.


Trump has 12 days to turn around dire numbers. Biden didn't do him any favours in the debate

 - US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is up about 10 points nationwide and has a solid lead in more than enough swing states to get to 270 electoral votes.

 - US President Donald Trump needs something to dynamically change the tenor of the race.

 - He didn't get it at the final presidential debate.


Dying of loneliness: How Covid-19 is killing dementia patients

Teresa Palmer is sitting on the back porch of her home in San Francisco when the mobile phone in her hand starts to buzz.

A kind, raspy voice enquires from the other end of the line: "Did I wake you?" If the question surprises Palmer, she does not show it. Her reply is plain and swift. "No," she says: It is past one in the afternoon. She has been awake for hours.

Her mother, Berenice Palmer, is 103 years old. She lives at the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, a 15-minute drive south from the cheery blue house where Teresa, 68, and her husband live.

But since March, Teresa has not been able to see Berenice, except for the occasional doctor’s visit, plus that one time Berenice fell and had to get stitches at the emergency room. Teresa was given permission to drive her mother back to the nursing home.


Coronavirus morning recap: Why some defy lockdown rules, and survey finds Covid fears wearing off

Scientists looked at personality traits to understand why some defy lockdown rules; and South Africans are less afraid of the coronavirus now, according to a survey.


There are now 710 515 coronavirus cases after 2 156 new infections were recorded in the past 24 hours.

"Regrettably, we report 102 COVID-19 related deaths today. This brings the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 18 843. Of the 102 deaths reported today, 20 occurred in the past 48 hours," Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

There are 642 560 recoveries.

You can now get a Covid antibody test at Clicks - here's what you need to know

 - You can now get a Covid-19 antibody test at Clicks clinics nationwide.

 - The tests cost R199 and deliver results while you wait.

 - But not everyone believes rapid antibody tests - or antibody tests in general - serve much purpose on a consumer level.


University of Fort Hare confirms 125 total Covid-19 cases

The University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape has sent a notice to its students and staff stating that a total of 125 confirmed Covid-19 cases have been recorded at its campuses.

Spokesperson Tandi Mapukata said the university's East London campus had 27 new cases – 25 students, a driver and a security guard – raising its active cases to 60.

With four fatalities and 61 recoveries, the total confirmed cases at the university now stand at 125.

"The majority of the infected students are with the faculty of law, followed by management and commerce, and a couple from health sciences. All are in the process of being taken to the Bhisho Hospital isolation site which the province has generously offered to us. We wish them well on their recovery journeys," Mapukata said.



Covid-19 wrap: China to maintain ban on outbound tours, Germany issued travel warnings for regions

 - Germany issued travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland and most of Austria in aid of containing the spread of the virus.

 - China will continue to suspend outbound group tours and ban travel agencies from allowing inbound tours due to the risk of a resurgence in cases.

 - Croatia reported on Thursday its biggest rise in daily new Covid-19 infections with 1 563 new cases.


The US's third coronavirus surge may become the deadliest yet, experts say 

 - Daily coronavirus cases in the US have risen nearly 40%, on average, since the start of October. 

 - Experts worry these cases will lead to the nation's deadliest surge of infections yet, as more people gather indoors for the holidays and become more lax about masks and social distancing.

 - The US is also approaching peak flu season, which can lead to overcrowding at hospitals.


A 28-year-old in Oxford's vaccine trial died from Covid, but a report says he received a placebo

 - A volunteer in Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine trial in Brazil has died.

 - The man, 28, died from complications of Covid-19, Brazil's O Globo newspaper and CNN Brasil reported. He is the first person to die during any company's Covid-19 vaccine trial.

 - According to O Globo, he was in the control group and had been given a placebo instead of the trial vaccine.

 - A representative for the Oxford Vaccine Group, which is developing the vaccine with AstraZeneca, told Business Insider it would continue the trials because "there have been no concerns about safety."


Scientists raise alarm over signs of vaccine 'hesitancy'

There is increasing concern that vaccine hesitancy is on the rise, with misinformation and mistrust colouring people's acceptance of scientific advances.

Scientists called for urgent action to improve public trust in immunisation as research suggested sizeable minorities in some nations may be reluctant to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

With few effective treatments and no cure for the coronavirus, companies and governments are racing to develop vaccines in a bid to arrest the pandemic.

But there is increasing concern that "vaccine hesitancy" is also on the rise, with misinformation and mistrust colouring people's acceptance of scientific advances.


How Covid-19 affects those with rare immune disorders and what it means for the rest of us

Understanding how immuno-compromised patients react to the coronavirus can help scientists figure out what protects us against it.

There has been little study on how Covid-19 affects immuno-compromised individuals and how many of them actually survive the disease.

According to a new report to be published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the reaction of these people to SARS-CoV-2 might just provide some valuable insights into fighting infection and severe Covid-19.

Retrospective study

The researchers made a call to the global medical and scientific community for case studies on Covid-19 patients with rare inborn errors of immunity (IEI). Their call was answered with data from 94 IEI patients who battled the disease.

Contrary to expectation, the patients weren't old. Their average age was between 25 and 34 years (including children), and just more than half suffered from primary antibody deficiency. Other disorders included immune dysregulation syndromes, phagocyte defects, auto-inflammatory disorders and bone marrow failure.


Lockdown: Scientists looked at personality traits to understand why some defy the rules

The so-called "Big Five personality traits" show how certain personalities can be a central driver of behaviour during lockdowns, researchers have found.

People with certain common personality traits are less likely to remain at home when government policies are less restrictive, a global survey done during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has found.

The study researchers investigated the so-called Big Five personality traits: conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion and openness and its association with complying with lockdown measures.

"The pandemic led us to revisit one of psychology's most fundamental and most basic questions in a high-stakes context: What determines human behaviour?" the authors wrote.


Latest Covid-19 numbers: 18 741 deaths, 708 359 cases and a 90% recovery rate

South Africa recorded 85 more Covid-19-related deaths by Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 18 741.

The cumulative number of detected Covid-19 cases is 708 359, with 2 055 new cases reported in the past 24 hours.

Of the 85 deaths new fatalities reported, eight occurred in the past 48 hours.


Japan researchers show masks do block coronavirus, but not perfectly

TOKYO – Japanese researchers showed that masks can offer protection from airborne coronavirus particles, but even professional-grade coverings can't eliminate contagion risk entirely.

Scientists at the University of Tokyo built a secure chamber with mannequin heads facing each other. One head, fitted with a nebulizer, simulated coughing and expelled actual coronavirus particles. The other mimicked natural breathing, with a collection chamber for viruses coming through the airway.

A cotton mask reduced viral uptake by the receiver head by up to 40% compared to no mask. An N95 mask, used by medical professionals, blocked up to 90%. However, even when the N95 was fitted to the face with tape, some virus particles still sneaked in.

When a mask was attached to the coughing head, cotton and surgical masks blocked more than 50% of the virus transmission.

There has been a growing consensus among health experts that the Covid-19 virus can be spread through the air. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its guidance this month to say the pathogen can linger in the air for hours.

A separate team of Japanese researchers used supercomputer simulations to show that humidity can have a significant effect on the airborne dispersion of virus particles.


Coronavirus morning recap: Mkhize concerned over risk of Covid resurgence; and the role of empathy

The health minister is concerned about the risk of a Covid-19 resurgence; and how to get mask and distancing rebels to conform – induce empathy.


They say that empathy is at the heart of what it means to be human. In the findings of a new study, it could also save lives.

The study’s researchers, from Aarhus University, Denmark, have found that having empathy for vulnerable people at risk of Covid-19 (such as the elderly and those with comorbidities) means that we are more likely to maintain physical distancing and use face masks, ultimately helping to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

"We show that empathy for the most vulnerable is an important factor, and that it can be used actively to combat the pandemic,” said study co-author, Stefan Pfattheicher, an associate professor at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences at Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University.


2055 more coronavirus cases take SA's tally to 708 359.

With 85 new deaths the tally now is 18 741.

Recoveries now stand at 641 706 which translates to a recovery rate of 90%.

Covid-19 wrap | India to roll out paper test, US reports about 300 000 more deaths than expected

Nearly 300 000 more people have died in the United States in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic than would be expected based on historical trends, with at least two-thirds due to Covid-19, a government report released on Tuesday showed.

pstrongCovid-19 wrap | India to roll out paper test, US reports about 300 000 more deaths than expected/strong/ppNearly 300 000 more people have died in the United States in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic than would be expected based on historical trends, with at least two-thirds due to Covid-19, a government report released on Tuesday showed.strong/strong/p

Quarantined fishermen drive New Zealand virus spike

A coronavirus outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishermen flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country's largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said Wednesday.

Over 230 fishermen were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for Covid-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand's director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said.

The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travellers.

The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25, the highest level since April sparking concern among officials in prime minister Jacinda Ardern's recently reelected government.

New Zealand has recorded over 1 500 cases and 25 deaths in a population of almost five million and has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic.

Health officials said two new cases had also been linked to a port worker, who may have come into contact with a vessel now docked off Australia's east coast.

Broad travel bans remain in place in New Zealand and those granted exemptions - including the fishermen, who were classified as essential workers - are forced to quarantine for 14 days.

Bloomfield said the new cases highlighted the threat of overseas arrivals.

"We cannot afford to be complacent, we are not being complacent at the border," Bloomfield told media.

The maritime sector has also come under scrutiny in Australia, where dozens of crew members from a cattle ship docked off Australia's west coast tested positive for the virus.

"It is becoming clear that ships arriving with Covid-19 on board is one of the weakest links and the biggest risk to our way of life in Western Australia," Western Australia premier Mark McGowan said Tuesday.

Australia has recorded over 27 400 cases and 905 deaths in a population of 25 million.


New Zealand reports two new community coronavirus cases, 23 imported

New Zealand reported two new cases of COVID-19 in the community linked to a port worker who tested positive over the weekend, and 23 imported cases.

Most of the imported cases are linked to a group of Russian and Ukrainian fishermen who were staying at a managed isolation facility in Christchurch, the Director General of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said.

This takes New Zealand's total confirmed cases to 1 556, he said.


UK researchers aim to infect volunteers to study Covid exposure 

British researchers hope to expose healthy volunteers to the virus that causes Covid-19 in a groundbreaking study to discover the amount needed for people to become infected.

British researchers on Tuesday said they hope to expose healthy volunteers to the virus that causes Covid-19 in a groundbreaking study to discover the amount needed for people to become infected.

The Human Challenge Programme - a partnership that includes Imperial College London - hopes the work will ultimately help to "reduce the spread of the coronavirus, mitigate its impact and reduce deaths".

In what researchers called a world first, the opening stage of the project will examine the possibility of exposing healthy volunteers to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

They aim to recruit volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 with no underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or obesity.


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