7,572 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as death toll hits 148

 ·5 May 2020

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 7,572 positive Covid-19 cases in South Africa.

This is up by 352 from the 7,220 Covid-19 cases announced on Monday.

Dr Mkhize said in a statement on Tuesday (5 May), that a further 10 people have died from the virus, taking total deaths to 148.

Seven of those deaths have come in the Wetern Cape, with one each from the Eastern Cape, KZN, and Gauteng.

The doctor said that 268,064 tests have been conducted to date, with 2,746 recoveries.

Globally, coronavirus infections moved past 3.67 million cases, with deaths approaching 253,000, and 1.2 million recoveries.

Pfizer Inc has administered the first US patients with its experimental vaccines to fight the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, part of a bid to shave years off of the typical time it takes to develop a new inoculation, Bloomberg reported.

“The short, less than four-month time-frame in which we’ve been able to move from preclinical studies to human testing is extraordinary,” chief executive officer Albert Bourla said.

Preclinical studies are what companies do in animals or in the lab before they test vaccines in humans. Drugmakers have been working with regulators to compress development times.

Pfizer and BioNTech are in a race with companies including Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Inc and dozens of other biopharmacuetical outfits and academic groups to come up with a safe and effective vaccine against the illness within the next year to 18 months.

A handful are in human trials already, including Moderna’s and ones from CanSino Biologics Inc, the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Ramaphosa under pressure

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has won praise for his response to the coronavirus outbreak. Now, he’s risking a public backlash after members of his cabinet reversed some of his measures and made racially charged statements, Bloomberg reported.

Ramaphosa and his health minister, Zweli Mkhize, have been lauded for explaining the response and showing compassion with those at risk of losing their income, several ministers in Ramaphosa’s cabinet have introduced rules that are seen as arbitrary and playing to racial animosity.

That’s prompted accusations that authorities have gone too far, and undermined Ramaphosa’s initial gains.

“Serious weaknesses are exposed with certain ministers making statements that are quite divisive,” said Nic Borain, an independent economist. “There is a certain authoritarian slant in both the policing and the structure of the legislation.”

Much of the controversy has centered around a ban on tobacco sales and exercise. In an April 23 speech, Ramaphosa announced that cigarette sales and outdoor exercise could resume from May 1, as part of measures to ease the lockdown and bring it to level 4 from level 5, the most severe set of rules.

Six days later, the lifting of the cigarette ban was reversed by his former rival for the leadership of the ANC, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who serves as minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Outdoor exercise was limited to between 06h00 and 09h00, she said.

Since then, more than 400,000 people have signed a petition opposing the tobacco ban, while British American Tobacco said it’s considering legal action, Bloomberg noted.

South Africa’s economy has lost R1.5 billion in revenue due to the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales, SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter, said last week.

South African Breweries, said on Tuesday, that the regulatory position taken towards alcohol in South Africa has definitely been on the extreme end of the spectrum when compared to lockdown measures put in place by other countries.

In some countries where bans were instituted the governments quickly reversed them when it became clear that the unintended consequences were worse than the initial perceived threats. Naturally these consequences included spikes in illicit alcohol trade and deaths related to the consumption of unsafe illicit substances, it said.

“If not addressed soon, the alarming rise in illicit trade, health emergencies and criminal incidents involving alcohol will become a crisis in its own right in South Africa.

“By implementing measured concessions now, our government can prevent this matter from becoming an ongoing drain on precious government time and resources in a time where the attention is much more needed elsewhere,” said Hellen Ndlovu, director of regulatory & public policy at SAB.

The brewer called for a more measured approach to the sale of alcohol, including limiting the amount of alcohol that can be purchased, introducing online sales, trading hour restrictions for stores selling for personal consumption, and opening up sales of lower alcohol by volume (ABV) products only.

Read: South African Breweries calls for the sale of beer and other alcohol under these conditions

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