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NHLS acquires 60 mobile coronavirus sampling, testing units
2 April 2020, 12:40 AM

The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) has acquired 60 mobile coronavirus sampling and testing units.

These were unveiled by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in Sandringham east of Johannesburg on Wednesday.

These testing units will be deployed in districts and municipalities across the country in a bid to scale up testing of citizens for COVID-19.

Mkhize announced that the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Africa had increased by 27 to 1 380 positive and 44 202 tests had been conducted.

France passes 4000 coronavirus deaths, no end of lockdown in sight
1 April 2020, 10:43 PM

France became the fourth country to pass the 4 000 coronavirus deaths threshold on Wednesday, after Italy, Spain and the United States, as the government scrambles to stay ahead of the curve regarding ventilator-equipped beds that are quickly filling up.

French health authorities reported 509 new deaths from the disease, taking the total to 4 032. But, after speeding up the previous two days, the rate of increase of deaths has decelerated in France, which is now in its third week of lockdown to try to slow the spread of the virus.

Speaking by video conference in front of a parliament committee created to hold the government accountable for the way it handles the crisis, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the lockdown would likely be unwound gradually rather than in one go.

The government has ordered people to stay in their homes except for essential travel from March 17 until at least April 15.

“It is likely that we are not heading towards a general de-confinement in one go and for everyone,” Philippe said without indicating when the government might start to ease or completely lift the lockdown.

The daily government tally still only accounts for those dying in hospitals but authorities say they will very soon be able to compile data on deaths in retirement homes, which is likely to result in a big increase in registered fatalities.

State health agency director Jerome Salomon told a news conference that the number of cases had risen to 56,989, a rise of 9%, versus an increase of 17% Tuesday.

Salomon said 6 017 people were in a serious condition needing life support, up 8% compared with Tuesday.

France has increased the number of beds in intensive care units from 5 000 to about 10 000 since the start of the crisis and it is aiming to reach 14 500 as soon as possible.

“We are coping with a highly exceptional pandemic, that has an unprecedented impact on our health system. A deadly pandemic, with a very contagious virus”, Salomon said.

With 13 155 deaths to date, Italy accounts for almost 30% of the global death tally. Spain has 9 053 deaths and, just like France, the United States has just passed the 4 000-mark.

The four countries now account for about two-thirds of the total deaths – now at more than 45 000 – from the coronavirus around the world.

COVID-19 infections growing exponentially, deaths nearing 50 000 – WHO
1 April 2020, 10:27 PM

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced deep concern on Wednesday about “the rapid escalation and global spread” of COVID-19 cases from the new coronavirus, which has now reached 205 countries and territories.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that his agency, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed debt relief to help developing countries cope with the pandemic’s social and economic consequences.

“In the past five weeks there has been a near-exponential growth in the number of new cases and the number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week,” Tedros told a virtual news conference in Geneva where the UN health organization is based.

“In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases and 50 000 deaths worldwide,” he said.

China, where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged in December, reported dwindling new infections on Wednesday and for the first time disclosed the number of asymptomatic cases, which could complicate how trends in the outbreak are read.

Its latest figures excluded 130 new sufferers of the highly contagious disease who do not show symptoms, its statistics showed.

Asked about the distinction, Dr. Maria ver Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist who was part of an international team who went to China in February, said WHO’s definition included laboratory-confirmed cases “regardless of the development of symptoms.”

“From data that we have seen from China in particular, we know that individuals who are identified, who are listed as asymptomatic, about 75% of those actually go on to develop symptoms,” she said, describing them as having been in a”pre-symptomatic phase”. The new coronavirus causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

The outbreak continues to be driven by people who show signs of disease including fever and cough, but it is important for the WHO to capture that “full spectrum of illness”, she added.

Tedros, referring to proposed debt relief, said: “Many countries, developing countries cannot really support their societies especially during lockdowns, especially those community members who work for their daily bread. That is why we call on the international community to have debt relief to support those countries.

“We are proposing an expedited process to support countries so their economies are not getting into crisis, (and) their communities are not getting into crisis,” he said.

 

UK coronavirus deaths rise by 27%, minister laments “shocking” toll
1 April 2020, 4:57 AM

The number of deaths from coronavirus in the United Kingdom rose by 27% in the space of a day, according to new figures on Tuesday that a senior cabinet minister described as shocking and disturbing.

The government said 1 789 people have died in hospitals from coronavirus as of 1600 GMT on Monday, an increase of 381 from Sunday, the largest rise in absolute terms yet.

“The increase in the number of deaths is deeply shocking, disturbing (and) moving,” Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said at a news conference, adding that it was not possible to predict when fatalities would peak.

“It depends on the actions of all of us,” he added. “We can delay that peak, we can flatten the curve through our own particular actions.”

Later on Tuesday, a London hospital announced that a 13-year-old boy had died after contracting coronavirus, Britain’s youngest fatality from the pandemic.

Britain initially took a gradual approach to containing the virus compared with European countries such as Italy.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed stringent controls after projections showed a quarter of a million people could die. Johnson has since become the first leader of a major power to announce a positive test result for coronavirus.

Britain lags Italy, Spain and France in terms of the number of deaths, but they are still doubling around every 3.5 days.

While that is similar to the trajectory of Italy – the world’s worst-hit country – when it was reporting similar numbers of deaths just over two weeks ago, British officials said on Tuesday they saw tentative reasons for optimism.

Official figures showed confirmed cases rose 14% between Monday and Tuesday to 25 150 as of Tuesday at 0800 GMT, the third day of increases around that rate – slowing from around 22-24% last Thursday and Friday.

“We’re not out of the woods, we’re very much in the woods, and it’s really important that we keep complying with those instructions,” said Stephen Powis, director of the National Health Service in England.

“But as you can see, the number of infections is not rising as rapidly as it was. So, green shoots, but only green shoots, and we must not be complacent and we must not take our foot off the pedal.”

Broadcaster predicts La Liga restart in July with no fans
1 April 2020, 4:39 AM

Spain’s La Liga could recommence in July without spectators, the head of a major broadcaster has said, adding that the season was likely to be cancelled if a player tested positive for the coronavirus once the campaign had restarted.

All organised soccer in Spain has been on hold since March 10 due to the spread of the deadly virus although Jaume Roures, CEO of Spanish multimedia group Mediapro, predicted that matches could resume behind closed doors in three months’ time.

“I expect football to return in July, certainly without supporters, but first of all there would have to be a pre-season campaign,” Roures told radio station Cadena Cope on Wednesday.

Spain is the second-worst affected country in Europe by the virus behind Italy and on Tuesday reported a record daily death toll of 849 from the virus, which has killed a total of 8 189 people.

Players from Valencia, Espanyol and Alaves have tested positive for the virus and Roures said if another player was to contract the disease then the season would have to be cancelled.

“If a player tested positive, for example on July 20, we’d have to throw in the towel and say goodbye to the season,” Roures added.

“We have to take every measure possible to ensure that doesn’t happen. But if it does, the party is over.”

With 11 matches still to be played, Barcelona lead Real Madrid by two points at the top of the standings, while the battle to avoid relegation is also finely balanced.

La Liga’s organising body has put the estimated cost of the season not finishing at 700 million euros ($772 million) and has vowed to finish the season, as has the national soccer federation.

“I don’t think it’s too difficult to play 11 matches in two months. Not playing would leave a hole of 700 million euros which would take a lot to fix,” added Roures.

“We would be suffering for a long time as a result so that’s why we have to try to finish the season.”

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