238,339 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as deaths climb to 3,720

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 238,339 total cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 13,674 cases from the 224,665 cases reported on Wednesday – a new 24-hour high for the country.

The minister announced 129 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking the total to 3,720 casualties following a high of 192 deaths on Tuesday, while the minister pointed to 113,061 recoveries to date.

A total of two million tests have been conducted, with 56,170 tests conducted over the past 24 hours, Dr Mkhize said.

Globally since 31 December 2019 and as of 9 July 2020, around 12 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported, with approximately 548,000 deaths and 6.95 million recoveries.

The World Health Organisation is “keeping an open mind” on whether airborne transmission plays a major role in spreading the coronavirus, its Covid-19 special envoy, David Nabarro, said on Ireland’s RTE Radio.

While the WHO doesn’t have a “bundle of evidence” that it is important right now, he acknowledged there were some outbreaks that weren’t easily explained, Bloomberg reported.

Separately, the WHO named leaders of an independent panel to review its response to the pandemic.

Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, were selected as co-chairs, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a meeting with member-states. The panel will present an interim report in November.

Income grant

Remdesivir, a drug that has been shown reduce the time to recovery of Covid-19 patients is expected to be available in South Africa soon.

Cipla, through an agreement with Gilead Sciences Inc, was granted a license to manufacture and distribute the antiviral medicine in 127 countries, including South Africa.

Citing Cipla South Africa chief executive officer, Paul Miller, BusinessDay reported that the company has earmarked an initial batch of 35,000 vials for the country, which is anticipated to arrive in the week of 20 July.

Remdesivir has not yet been registered by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), which means it needs to be imported using a section 21 exemption to the Medicines and Related Substances Act, Miller said.

Section 21 exemptions are used for medicines that have not been thoroughly investigated by Sahpra, but have been approved by regulators in other countries.

Covid-19-fighting drug

Remdesivir came to prominence in the US after a clinical trial showed that it accelerates recovery from advanced Covid-19.

Preliminary results indicated that patients who received the drug had a 31% faster time to recovery than those who received placebo.

Specifically, the median time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with Remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received placebo.

Results also suggested a survival benefit, with a mortality rate of 8.0% for the group receiving Remdesivir versus 11.6% for the placebo group.

In an interview with 702, Miller said that instead of only relieving the symptoms, the drug has been shown to fight the virus in the body. “This is what makes it so unique and exciting as a medication,” he said.

He said that in the US, the drug costs around $390 for a vial, with between six or 10 vials needed per patient – depending on the length of stay in hospital.

Miller said that Cipla manufactures the drug in India as an injectible, with the price coming down to $55 per vial. “We’re hoping that this is going to make the medication… affordable, and accessible.”

He said that the company is working with the health authorities to get approval to bring the product to market, adding that the drug has a very strong clinical history.

Read: Covid-19-fighting drug to be available in South Africa

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238,339 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as deaths climb to 3,720