Inside Covid-19: Life under level 2 – Lenasia’s response system; changes for Vitality members. Ep 77

In this episode of Inside Covid-19, we look at life under level two of lockdown. First we explore how a Johannesburg community has created its own Covid-19 response system – including operating a community-run ambulance system. And, we speak to Dinesh Govender, the CEO of Discovery Vitality about what social reintegration means for Vitality’s members and its lifestyle partners. Plus, catch up on the Covid-19 news making headlines. – Jackie Cameron

In today’s Covid-19 headlines:

  • SA may be first to sign a deal to help produce a Covid-19 vaccine, potentially boosting access to immunisation on a continent with limited manufacturing capacity, reports Bloomberg. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global organisation funding vaccine development, is considering the Cape Town-based Biovac Institute as a fill-finish site, according to Helen Rees, the chair of the organisation’s Scientific Advisory Board. The state vaccine company is one of few in the country that has the capacity to package doses into sterile dispensers if clinical trials are successful, says the news agency. “What we are looking at is partnerships,” Morena Makhoana, Biovac’s chief executive officer, said in response to questions. “Once that is signed, we will be able to make an announcement.” A manufacturing agreement will “put Africa on a similar path to other continents, much like the clinical trials are doing,” he said. South Africa is the only country in Africa that hosts several clinical studies. It has 2,000 people in the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford vaccine trial, while Novavax. announced earlier this month it’s starting a Phase 2b clinical trial. One-fifth of the 60,000 volunteers expected to enroll worldwide in Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine trial will be in South Africa, said Glenda Gray, the chief executive officer of the South African Medical Research Council.
  • South Africa published the names of all companies that won coronavirus-related government contracts in a bid to crack down on corruption, making it the first country on the continent to do so. The move comes as a graft scandal related to procurement of medical equipment that implicated staff in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s own office sullies the reputation of the ruling African National Congress. Earlier this week Ramaphosa wrote to ANC members, warning them that the allegations are tarnishing its image. The list, released by the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, details Covid-19 procurement information from all provinces, national departments and more than 70 public entities, according to a statement from the presidency on Wednesday. Ramaphosa told the departments earlier this month to submit any information on coronavirus-related tenders to a special ministerial team.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US says that based on what is known at this time, pregnant women might be at an increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19 compared to non-pregnant women. Additionally, pregnant women with Covid-19 might have an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth. The CDC says it is supporting multiple efforts to better understand the impact of Covid-19 during pregnancy on both the mother and infant. Data collected as part of these efforts can help direct public health action and inform clinical guidance for the care of affected pregnant women and their infants.
  • Three-quarters of South African businesses have seen their revenues shrink and a quarter (23%) has had to shut down, temporarily or permanently, according to a new survey. For just two in ten it is business as usual, while only a tiny fraction (2%) has grown its operations, says Management Consultancy RedFlank.
  • Moderna Inc. said Wednesday its experimental coronavirus vaccine induced immune responses in people aged 56 years and older that were comparable to those seen in younger adults in a small study, a promising sign for a vulnerable age group. Older adults are at higher risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19 than younger people. While Moderna and other companies are racing to develop vaccines to protect people from the new coronavirus, some experts have been concerned that vaccines won’t offer as much protection in older adults. The company has started a large, pivotal trial aimed at assessing whether the immune responses translate into actual protection from Covid-19 disease. So far, Moderna has enrolled more than 15,200 volunteers—toward a goal of 30,000 – who are receiving either the vaccine or a placebo. Researchers will track whether the rate of symptomatic Covid-19 is lower among vaccinated people than in unvaccinated people.
  • Two studies have found that the use of Hydroxychloroquine is linked to lower death rates among Covid-19 patients. The European Journal of Internal Medicine and International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents produced similar findings.
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