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Rassie Erasmus
Springbok Green and Gold in Cape Town gearing up for Castle Larger showdown
28 September 2020, 9:19 PM

The Springbok Green and Gold squads are in Cape Town all masked up as they begin preparations for the Castle Lager Springbok showdown at Newlands on Saturday. Two 25-men squads have been chosen for the match.

The two squads boast 13 members of the Rugby World Cup winning squad from last year in Japan. Coach Rassie Erasmus says most of the Boks have not played enough this year to be competitive enough for test rugby.

He says they are now working hard to improve their conditioning to enable them to compete in the Rugby Championships in Australia in November.

Erasmus says they are also still waiting for a few players who are based overseas to join the squad.

“It’s more the English clubs that will be in the semi-finals and finals who we haven’t really got a clear answer from when their players will be available. The French clubs, I actually think, are aligned with us. So, I think it’s more the English clubs. Then arriving in Australia where the Rugby Championships will be hosted, you have to arrive at the same time and it will be a massive squad. You have to be there for eight weeks and quarantine is two weeks and those kind of things.”

Nonhlanha Khoza
Calls for the arrest of man who allegedly poured boiling water on baby
28 September 2020, 7:27 PM

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Social Development Nonhlanhla Khoza is calling for the arrest of a man who allegedly poured boiling water over a 17 month old baby in Swayimani in Pietermaritzburg. It is claimed that the mother had an argument with her brother who allegedly retaliated by pouring boiling water over the baby who suffered third-degree burns.

It is alleged that the family tried to conceal the incident.

Khoza has urged families not to cover up child abuse.

“If you see any incident of this nature I appeal to everyone, in KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa, if you see anyone doing (sic) incident of this nature just indicate. Do that! We are going to intervene as social development. Let us stand up as the society. Let us stand up as families. It is upon us to do good to our province of KwaZulu-Natal. We cannot allow families to say they just deal with this matter alone. And they will have some talks within each other,” says Khoza.

Protest
Service delivery protest disrupts traffic between Mthatha and Libode
28 September 2020, 7:10 PM

A service delivery protest disrupted traffic on the R61 between Mthatha and Libode in the Eastern Cape on Monday morning. The residents of Mdlankomo village next to the R61 are demanding clean water from the OR Tambo District Municipality. The police intervened and dispersed the crowd.

The outraged community of Mdlankomo and Mchonco blockaded the R61 road in the early hours demanding the OR Tambo District Municipality to give reasons why water taps are closed. They say they are forced to fetch unhygienic water from the stream. They allege the municipality of depriving the poor rural people of clean water.

Community leader Lwandile Dlanaye says they want the municipality to give reasons why there is no water in the villages.

“We want water. This municipality cut off the supply of water to our villages. This protest seeks to draw the attention of the municipality. We are desperate for water. It has been a month now without water.”

Phakamile Nyamazana says they have been writing letters to the municipality but no response is forthcoming.

“We wrote a letter to this municipality but they are ignoring us. It’s not because there is no water in our water taps, but the municipality decided to just cut off the water supply. That is (why) we are demanding answers from them.”

These villagers have vowed to continue fighting for their rights.

“We are drinking dirty, water, contaminated with pampers. The mayor is not listening to us. They just deployed the police to shoot us. We do not have water since the beginning of the scourge of COVID-19. We need water! rtat’s all we want from the municipality.”

OR Tambo District Municipality says it has quickly restored water service to the community after a fact-finding mission as to why other people were not accessing water in the area.

Zimkhitha Macingwane is the municipality’s spokesperson.

“Shortage of water is due to illegal connections, but I can confirm that water has been restored to the village. The district municipality was on a fact finding mission as to why Ward 7 and Ward 8 was not having a shortage of water supply and it has been established that illegal connections are the cause for some parts of the community not getting adequate water service.”

Water scarcity in the rural areas OR Tambo and Alfred Ndzo District Municipalities is a great concern that continues to expose people’s life to health hazards.

Ravi Gupta
Scientist hailed by Time Magazine says HIV testing contributed to rapid COVID-19 testing
28 September 2020, 6:37 PM

A scientist, who has been hailed by Time Magazine as one of the hundred most influential people, says cutting edge HIV testing contributed to a rapid test for COVID-19 at a time when the world was struggling to test patients fast enough. Professor Ravi Gupta made the Time 100 list after he and his team announced that the so-called London patient was cured of HIV following a stem cell transplant to treat cancer.

Professor Gupta from Cambridge University and his team were researching HIV reservoirs within the body when the COVID-19 pandemic struck at the beginning of the year. Gupta and his team had moved on from the so-called London patient.

They announced early this year that Adam Castillejo was cured of HIV after he stayed HIV negative for 30 months.

This after Castillejo underwent a stem cell transplant to treat a type of blood cancer. An alternative HIV test had to be used on Castillejo because he had to be frequently monitored over an extended period. Gupta says a chance encounter with one of the people who helped them, led to this finger prick test to be modified into a rapid test for COVID-19 antibodies.

“It’s a remarkable story. Coincidence or fate, I’m not sure which it was, but because I had a contact with the company that made the platform, I bumped into the same individual here in Cambridge where I had moved only last year from London. And I saw that person and we started discussing diagnostics for COVID, and it all went from there,” says Gupta.

The case of the London patient – as Castillejo was initially referred to – made the world sit up because it confirmed that HIV can be cured under very specific circumstances. However, Gupta is quick to add that it is not a cure for everyone.

Castillejo was in the terminal stages of a type of blood cancer.

The bone marrow transplant was a last-ditch treatment. Gupta explains they need donor cells which – due to a very rare mutation – do not produce a protein called CCR5.

Gupta says CCR5 is one of the receptors that HIV binds with when it enters a host cell.

“Some viruses are not treatable with this method because they are using a receptor or protein that is not CCR5. Some strain can actually use something that is called CXCR4 in about 20 and 30% of cases, let’s say. So, the treatment we have proposed is only applicable in about 80% of the cases in the first place,” he says.

Gupta says his team’s work has encouraged other researchers to look for more ways the HI virus can be eliminated from the body.

“How do you manage to knock out this gene, or protein, in large numbers of cells in a patient. And that is where there is a lot of work needed in terms of how you deliver the modification strategy in patients. And the second sort of area of this is we think that incoming cells, or killer white blood cells may be important in clearing HIV infected cells.”

Such bio-medical techniques has had its fair share of controversy since the birth of the first so-called test tube babies 40 years ago, thanks to in-vitro fertilisation.

Gupta says the ethics of gene-editing was pushed to the fore after an outcry earlier this year over the birth of Chinese twins whose cells do not produce CCR5 because the fertilised eggs were manipulated.

“And the WHO made a statement after this, saying this is not acceptable and that a proper discussion and agreement needs to be reached worldwide as to when and how genetic modification in babies or after conception or pre-conception is done.”

Gupta also works with the Africa Health Research Institute, which focusses on HIV/Aids and TB in KwaZulu-Natal. Gupta says he is honoured to feature on the Time 100 list because it is a timely opportunity for him to represent basic science and virology.

Residents of Jouberton in Klerksdorp call on Department of Health to open a community health centre
28 September 2020, 5:13 PM

Residents of Jouberton in Klerksdorp, North West, have called on the Health Department to open a multi-million rand community healthcare centre, built in their area three years ago. Residents say they are forced to travel to other areas to seek health services. They say despite traveling long distances for services, those clinics are often overcrowded.

Some have to return to the clinics a number of times before they are assisted.

A R160 million health facility, built three years ago, to enable Jourberton residents to access health services at a nearby facility has, according to residents, become a white elephant.

“As the community of Extension 19 and 20, we want to know why the clinic is not open, at least then provide us with information so that we should know,” says one resident.

“I am from the clinic in Alabama. I went there at 06:45. I just arrived now and I was supposed to be at work now and I did not go,” says anothr resident.

The Provincial Health Department says all hands are on deck to counter delays in the opening of the community health centre in Jouberton.

Health MEC Madoda Sambatha elaborates, “Both Sekhing and Jouberton are old projects that must be finished. That is why I said one of the budget of the infrastructure, we still have 50% of funding going project, that would have been project of two years ago. They should have been finished, but they are not finished. We are working on finishing them.”

And, the standing committee on health in the provincial legislature says it is not acceptable for communities to be forced to travel long distances to access health services.

Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Health, Priscilla Williams, says, “It is not fair completely. It is wrong actually for society because remember, we said we want to bring services to the people and we still stand by that, but when we cannot provide for that – and not because there is no funds available but it is because of our own internal administrative challenges that we created or are created – it becomes unfair practice to the people.”

The Provincial Health Department says the facility will be handed over to the community before the end of this year.

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