Inside Covid-19: Credible, fact-based pleas to re-open SA’s economy – from Tygerberg Hospital to Panda. Ep 31

In episode 31 of Inside Covid-19, an in-depth interview with neurosurgeon Prof Ian Vlok on Tygerberg Hospital’s Covid-19 robots – and why local medics believe the country needs to urgently open up; a warning by the actuaries at Panda that the unintended consequences of the lockdown will kill 29 times more people than the virus; how the new world of office work will be very different to the pre-Covid-19 norm; and a message to struggling companies from a business rescue practitioner who advises them to take the tough decisions sooner rather than later. – Alec Hogg

In the Covid-19 headlines today:

  • South Africa’s Covid-19 cases continue to rise, but at a relatively modest rate, with 236 new infections confirmed on Wednesday, the third successive daily decline since Sunday’s 447, the highest daily number thus far. Total cases reached 7,808 Wednesday, while a further five deaths took the total to 153. The Western Cape currently accounts for around half the reported cases and deaths. By Wednesday night, with more than 10,000 now being conducted daily, a total of almost 280,000 tests had been conducted. Globally, by Thursday evening worldometer.info reported total coronavirus cases at 3.85m and deaths at 266,000, with the US accounting for around a third of global infections and a quarter of new deaths. The UK’s deaths now exceed 30 000, making it the second hardest hit nation, closely followed by Italy, then Spain and France. According to Johns Hopkins University, at 73 per 100,000 population, Belgium remains the hardest hit of any nation followed by Spain at 55, Italy at 49, the UK and 45, France at 38, the Netherlands at 30 and the US at 22. One of the few similarities between these countries is that none of them have had a sustained universal BCG vaccine regime. By contrast, BCG vaccinating neighbour Portugal has a per capita mortality rate of Spain; while the mortality rate in Mexico, a universal BCG vaccinator since 1951, is one tenth of its non-vaccinating northern neighbour, the USA.
  • South Africa’s horse racing industry says it is on the brink of collapse with 60,000 direct and indirect jobs likely to be lost if the hard lockdown on the sector continues. The National Horseracing Authority says in addition that 400 horses a month face the prospect of being euthanised as the suspension of racing persists. The industry is asking for 15 minutes of racing per day to be introduced behind closed doors, with just 65 people per course sufficient to ensure eight races could be held with all Covid-19 health and safety protocols followed. South Africa is the world’s 8th most important horseracing market of 65 countries, a significant exporter of thoroughbreds and foreign exchange generator through the television broadcasting of its races.
  • In a study of 17.4m UK adults, the largest yet conducted, The University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have concluded that irrespective of their financial situation, Asian and Black people have the highest mortality risk from the coronavirus. It also confirmed that men are at higher risk as well as older people and those with uncontrolled diabetes and severe asthma. The study, which was done for Britain’s National Health Service linked patients hospitalised through Covid-19 with primary care records.
  • The world’s largest entertainment company, Walt Disney Co, says the pandemic knocked operating income by $1.4bn in the March quarter, a decline of 37%. It expects much worse in the three months to end June saying the coronavirus brought practically every part of the Disney machine to a halt. In another reflection of the new post coronavirus world, Uber and its smaller rival Lyft have both announced that they expect fewer passengers in future. In anticipation, Uber has cut about 14% of its workforce; Lyft says it will be laying off 17% of its staff. Lyft reported that its ridership plunged 75% in April.
  • Businesses preparing to welcome their employees back to work face significant challenges according to a survey conducted among essential service employers by financial services group Mercer. It found almost half of the essential companies had problems with employees not coming to work because of fears of getting sick, with the problem highest in retail where 84% of essential businesses surveyed reporting this as a major issue.
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