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Professor Gita Ramjee
Tributes pour in for Prof Gita Ramjee
1 April 2020, 9:56 PM

Messages of condolence are pouring in for the world-renowned scientist, Professor Gita Ramjee. Professor Ramjee was the Chief Scientific Officer for HIV Prevention at the Aurum Institute.

She previously held numerous portfolios within the South African Medical Research Council, focusing on HIV research and prevention. Professor Ramjee died in an Umhlanga hospital in Durban.

The institute shared the news of Ramjee’s death in a Twitter post on Tuesday night. Immediately after the news broke, members of the scientific community and local activists and personalities shared their tributes to the remarkable researcher on Twitter.

Professor Ramjee grew up in Uganda. She later moved to India where she attended high school for several years. She then relocated to the north-east of England and attended the University of Sunderland.

She joined the South African Medical Research Council as a scientist and progressed rapidly to senior scientist, division head, chief specialist scientist and then Director of one of the largest units of the Council. She worked in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention research, working with microbicide trials for over ten years. She also led a KwaZulu-Natal team working on an HIV Vaccine Trial.

As the Director of the HIV Prevention Research Unit, Professor Ramjee increased the unit’s scientific staff from 22 to 350, helping it gain an international reputation.

She was awarded the “Outstanding Female Scientist” Award by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships in 2018. Professor Ramjee was also an Honorary Professor at the University of Tamil Nadu in India, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), Professor Salim Abdool Karim, has described Ramjee as a scholar of note who made a huge contribution in HIV research.

“She was to me, not only a colleague but also a dear friend; a scientist I have worked with for many years. I recruited her to come and join me to do HIV research some 26 years ago and when I left MRC, the Medical Research Council, she replaced me as the head of HIV research at the MRC. She was an outstanding scientist – a scholar of note. She will be remembered as the person in South Africa who has made an enormous contribution to HIV control, especially for women.”

Deputy President David Mabuza says the health sector has lost a champion for women’s health in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

‘In her, we have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically at the hands of this global pandemic. In her honour, we should heed the call to flatten the curve by strengthening our responses to this global pandemic, as well as continue the fight to achieve zero new HIV infections. We would like to convey our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Professor Ramjee as well as to the medical research community,” Mabuza’s spokesperson Matshepo Seedat said.

Scientific Director at the Doris Duke Medical Research Centre at the University of Natal, Professor Jerry Coovadia, says Professor Ramjee has made a significant contribution with her mother-to-child transmission research.

“Well on her way, too much more successes than she already has she worked amongst women. As most people know now that women are the most vulnerable persons in the HIV epidemic.”

Spokesperson of the Aurum Institute, Khanyi Ndaki, says they are deeply saddened by the passing of its Chief Scientific Officer for HIV Prevention.

“The world has lost a bold and compassionate leader in the response to HIV. Professor Ramjee firmly believed in health as a fundamental human right. Her ground-breaking research in HIV prevention contributed to the global response to HIV and AIDS. Our thoughts during this difficult time are with her family, colleagues and the many people her life and work touched.”

In a statement, President of the South African Medical Research Council, Glenda Gray, says Ramjee’s tenacity will never be forgotten.

The Department of Health is yet to confirm reports that Ramjee died of COVID-19 complications.

On Tuesday, Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced that the national death toll from the coronavirus had risen from three to five. The two latest fatalities were a 79-year-old man from Gauteng who had an underlying chest condition and a 46-year-old woman from Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal.

In the video below, tributes pour in for Professor Gita Ramje:

-Reporting by Nonhlakanipho Magwaza

John Steenhuisen
Political party leaders use time productively as lockdown continues
1 April 2020, 9:11 PM

The number of confirmed coronavirus (C0VID-19) cases in South Africa continues to rise and currently stands at 1 380 cases with five deaths. This is an increase from the three announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday.

As many South Africans try to get used to the new normal following the 21-day lockdown, political party leaders have found ways to use their time productively.

After President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a National State of Disaster followed by the 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19, all political activities in the country were cancelled.

While the lockdown has been somewhat of a challenge for citizens, some political party leaders took to social media to not only interact with but also to encourage South Africans to comply with the lockdown regulations.

In the video below, political parties welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to place SA under a 21-day lockdown:

The busiest has been the Democratic Alliance (DA). The party has started an online channel tackling COVID-19-related issues and has also a put together what it termed a Blue Book, which contains a host of solutions and observations in the fight against the pandemic.

The party has now launched a WhatsApp line to report military and police abuse.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen has encouraged citizens to report abuse of civil rights by police, the SANDF and security personnel.

“In response to the various assaults and civil liberties that South African have witnessed in the cause of the last few days and the fact that parliament is not sitting at the moment, the Speaker of the National Assembly is yet to respond to our request for the creation of an ad-hoc committee. The DA has set up a dedicated WhatsApp line as well as an email address where citizens, who’re civil rights or the right of the citizens are abused by overzealous SAPS or SANDF or security personnel, are encouraged to report these. So we can make sure we escalate them both within the SANDF and IPID to ensure that action is taken against members who do not follow the requirement of what professional policing looks like in constitutional country underpinned by the bill of right.”

The EFF also has put this period to productive use, by engaging with its followers on party ideologies.

“In terms of this process, we must read a document which is accessible via the EFF website. It is accessible via our social media platform; on Facebook and Twitter, but also, you can ask to be sent a WhatsApp copy. You will receive a document that has a lot of pages and responses on frequently asked questions on Maxism. We are going to engage all of us so that we enhance and harness our political understanding and our ideological conviction. It’s part of the engagement we are having during this lockdown due to coronavirus. Let us engage all of us so that we can close the gap between theory and practice. It’s an obligation of all fighters to engage in these questions.”

Mokgweetsi Masisi
Botswana President Masisi out of self-quarantine, tests negative for COVID-19
1 April 2020, 7:19 PM

News coming from Botswana is that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been released from self-quarantine with immediate effect. The Botswana presidency says Masisi tested negative to COVID-19.

His test results were released by the presidency.

Masisi went into self-isolation after having travelled to Namibia to attend the country’s 30th independence celebrations and swearing-in of Namibian President Hage Geingob.

In the video below, Hage Geingob is re-elected as the President of Namibia. 

Meanwhile, North West Health Authorities say they are going to work together with their counterparts in Botswana to trace people who may have had contact with the person who died from coronavirus in that country.

The 79 year-old woman reportedly travelled through South Africa to Motswedi village outside Zeerust in the North West. She attended a funeral in the village.

The deceased was the fourth case of COVID-19 registered in Botswana.

Already 14 people, who have been in contact with her, have been quarantined in Botswana.

In the video below, Botswana reports more cases of COVID-19:

North West MEC for health, Madoda Sambatha says they have identified a team of health officials to do contact tracing in Motswedi.

“We will then work with the health authorities in Botswana, but also work on the basis of doing our own contact tracing. What we are going to do; we are going to practically release a team of Ngaka Modiri Molema to go and establish contacts of this person who happened to be positive and deceased now in Botswana, to trace those contacts so that we know who they are.”

Kenya reports more COVID-19 cases

Moving further up in Africa, Kenya has confirmed 22 more positive cases of COVID-19 in the country, bringing to 81 the total number of positive cases in the country, according to Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe.

Kagwe also announced that Kenya’s patient zero, a 27-year-old woman who travelled to the country from the US through London has fully recovered.

Together with another patient identified as ‘Brian’, patient zero, only identified as ‘Brenda’, spoke to President Uhuru Kenyatta through a video link describing their journey of treatment and recovery.

Kenyatta hailed the health workers who treated the two.


LIVE: Inter-Ministerial Committee briefs media on COVID-19 Lockdown Day 6
1 April 2020, 6:00 PM

The South African Inter-Ministerial Committee members are briefing the media on the 6th day of the 21-day lockdown declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

South Africa has over 1 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has registered five deaths.

Earlier, Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize launched COVID-19 mobile sampling and testing units. In light of the increasing incidence of COVID-19 local transmissions, it has become necessary to scale up the capacity of testing citizens across the country.

To this end The National Health Laboratory service has procured 60 mobile sampling and testing units to be deployed nationwide to all districts and metropolitan municipalities.



2020 Wimbledon expected to be cancelled on Wednesday
1 April 2020, 3:15 PM

Wimbledon organisers are expected to announce the cancellation of the grasscourt grand slam on Wednesday due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the German Tennis Federation (DTB) vice-president Dirk Hordorff.

All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) officials earlier said the 29 June-12 July event would not be played behind closed doors and postponement was not without significant risk and difficulty.

Hordorff told Sky Sports Germany on Monday that the tournament would be cancelled following a board meeting on Wednesday.

The AELTC did not respond to a request for comment.

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics opened up a two-week window in the tennis calendar in July/August, but it is less likely that it will be feasible for Wimbledon, which has only two covered courts and cannot be held past late summer.

French Open organisers stunned the tennis world by unilaterally postponing the claycourt grand slam at Roland Garros from May until late September because of the pandemic.

The new dates mean the tournament is scheduled to a week after the conclusion of the US Open on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows in New York.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) came under heavy fire from tennis players around the world at the lack of communication as the new dates clashed with several other events already featuring on the calendar.

The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs women’s tournaments, require their players to participate at the four Grand Slams, but the new French Open dates are yet to feature on the calendars of either association.



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