Inside Covid-19: More than 1m dead; saving children; Adrian Gore on innovation amid gloom – Ep 90

It’s been six months since SA went into lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19. As the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre indicates that at at least 1m people have now died. South Africa has the 10th highest official number of Covid-19 infections in the world, with more than 670,000 people having tested positive for the disease. Around 16,400 in South Africa have Covid-19 on their death certificates. The US has the highest number of reported deaths, at 205,000, In this episode, we reflect on the development of the disease that has turned our lives upside down and put the South African economy into ICU, looking back at the first deaths in the country and the strict lockdown. We speak to Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and Nick Hudson, outspoken member of PANDA, a thinktank of actuaries, mathematicians and other professionals who have identified holes in Covid-19 models. Paediatric specialist Dr André Hattingh, who has been helping children who need urgent medical attention but haven’t been getting it because resources have been diverted for Covid-19, speaks to BizNews reporter Linda van Tilburg. We look at the people who have been infected with Covid-19 twice – and we hear from Discovery’s co-founder Adrian Gore that the world has seen remarkable innovation and positivity emerge in periods of negativity. – Jarryd Neves & Jackie Cameron

Inside Covid-19 headlines

  • Global Covid-19 cases topped 33 million as infections in India reached the 6 million mark. The official death toll has hit one million worldwide, though experts say the real tally may be almost double that, says Bloomberg.
  • Germany will face more than 19,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by the end of December if the current trend in infections isn’t halted, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Monday. The country recorded about 11,000 cases last week. The country must act quickly to avoid the same rapid rise in cases that has been seen in neighboring countries such as France, which has been reporting an average of about 12,000 cases each day, Merkel told leaders of her party, says the news agency.
  • France will match 2020’s record debt sales next year as the country combats the economic fallout from the pandemic. The euro area’s second-largest economy will issue 260 billion euros ($303 billion) of medium and long-term debt in 2021, Agence France Tresor is reported as saying.
  • A Conservative Party rebellion against Boris Johnson’s emergency coronavirus powers is gaining momentum after opposition parties signaled their support. The House of Commons plans a vote Wednesday on renewing legislation that allows ministers to impose new rules to combat the pandemic without first seeking parliamentary approval. But a growing band of Tory rebels want to amend the law to put a check on the government’s power.
  • Moscow has started to reopen temporary hospital wards after daily coronavirus infections in the Russian capital soared, says Bloomberg. The region reported 2,217 new cases of Covid-19 in the last day, with the number of daily infections up 3.5 times since the start of September.
  • Hong Kong’s latest coronavirus wave, says Bloomberg, is showing signs of subsiding after months of social-distancing measures, posting single-digit increases in daily confirmed cases for seven of the last eight days. That has pushed the rolling seven-day average daily infection rate down to about 5, the lowest since the end of June and well before the start of the current surge of infections.
  • Diageo Plc said it expects business in July to December to improve versus the first six months of the year as bars and restaurants reopen following coronavirus lockdowns. Business has improved in all regions since June, and the U.S. is ahead of expectations, Chief Executive Officer Ivan Menezes said in a statement.
  • Beijing’s city government is requiring companies to stop importing frozen food from countries with serious coronavirus outbreaks, according to a statement on the local commerce bureau’s website. The statement didn’t name any nations.
  • Coronavirus vaccines now in development are likely to be “partially protective” but won’t prevent everyone who’s inoculated from becoming infected, said Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “The expectation is that this vaccine is going to be partially protective, a lot like the flu vaccine, where for certain people it will provide full immunity, but for other people it’s not going to provide as much protection,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
  • About 40 universities around the UK have had reports of coronavirus cases and thousands of students are self-isolating as the new term begins, reports the BBC.
  • The impact of Covid-19 on the lungs and the rest of the respiratory tract has been evident since the early days of the pandemic, reports the journal Science, adding that “the name of the virus that causes the disease—severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)—tells us as much”. Eric Topol, MD, a practicing cardiologist who is also founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and executive vice president at Scripps Research, summarises existing evidence showcasing the diverse spectrum of heart abnormalities that SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause. “While no other human coronaviruses have been shown to impact the heart, people with SARS-CoV-2 have developed complications such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), necrosis of the heart cells (cell death leading to injury), improper heartbeats and even heart failure.”  The true prevalence of these heart manifestations is yet to be determined, it continues. As Topol points out, around 40 percent of SARS-CoV-2 infections occur without symptoms, and so far, not enough imaging studies have been conducted in people who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 or are seropositive without exhibiting symptoms, to determine the full impact of silent infections on the heart.
  • It is possible that Sars-CoV-2 is a generalist virus, capable of spreading through a wide range of species. So says Connor Bamford, Research Fellow, Virology, Queen’s University Belfast. Since the original investigations into the beginnings of Sars coronaviruses in 2002, horseshoe bats in south-east Asia have been implicated as the reservoir hosts, and a virus (RmYN02) that is extremely similar to Sars-CoV-2 has already been found in bats, he says. However, similar viruses have also been found in pangolins, raising the possibility that Sars-CoV-2 may not have jumped directly from a bat. Also, Sars-CoV-2 has already spread to catsdogstigers and mink, and for Sars-CoV-1 (the virus that caused the 2002-04 Sars epidemic), farmed civet cats and raccoon dogs acted as intermediate hosts, bringing a bat virus into proximity to humans. It is possible that Sars-CoV-2 is a generalist virus, capable of spreading through a wide range of species.
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