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On behalf of the South African COVID-19 Modelling Consortium COVID-19 is a new infectious disease. There is much still unknown about how the disease works, and how it will progress in the South African context. The South African COVID-19 Modelling Consortium was established to project the spread of the disease to support policy and planning in South Africa over the coming months. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the outbreak globally and in South Africa, the projections are updated regularly as new data become available. As such, projections should be interpreted with caution. Changes in testing policy, contact tracing, and hospitalisation criteria will all impact the cases detected and treated as well as the required budget for the COVID- 19 response in the next six months.
When you talk to intensive care doctors across the UK, exhausted after weeks of dealing with the ravages of Covid-19, the phrase that emerges time after time is, “We’ve never seen anything like this before.” They knew a new disease was coming, and they were expecting resources to be stretched by an unknown respiratory infection which had first appeared in China at the end of last year. And as the number of cases increased, doctors up and down the UK were reading first-hand accounts from colleagues in China, and then in Italy – in scientific journals and on social media – about the intensity of infection. “It felt in some ways like we were trying to prepare for the D-Day landings,” says Barbara Miles, clinical director of intensive care at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, “with three weeks to get ready and not a great deal of knowledge about what we would be facing”.
In January, a Swedish entrepreneur named Joakim Hultin co-founded Sidehide, a new digital app intended to streamline hotel reservations. Weeks later, some of the first confirmed cases of covid-19 were reported in Europe. Almost instantly, Hultin told me, “demand stopped.” Before the pandemic, Sidehide was working with a London-based company called Onfido, which uses artificial intelligence and facial recognition to verify identities. Hultin learned that Onfido had created a way for users to upload a serology test to a private server and use facial biometric data to unlock the data and display the results. He asked the company to build that capacity into his app. In June, Sidehide will launch again, in a few Miami hotels, having added what is being called an “immunity passport.” Patrons who have been tested for covid-19 antibodies and are shown to have them will have that information embedded in a QR code, to be scanned by hotel staff upon arrival. The Miami launch is a test, a proof of concept, and, if it works, Hultin is hopeful that it will help revive the travel industry. (Officials from Delta Air Lines and Heathrow Airport have expressed interest in immunity passports.) The idea, Hultin said, is to let the hotel staff know “the guest is safe.”
The government and authorities in Bangladesh fear that overcrowded storm evacuation shelters will exacerbate the spread of coronavirus. This comes after Cyclone Amphan flattened houses, uprooted trees, blew off roofs and toppled electricity pylons. The cyclone that hit Bangladesh on Thursday has killed at least 95 people. Three-million people in villages along the coast were evacuated to shelters, where social distancing will be difficult and put residents at risk of spreading the coronavirus. The UN office in Bangladesh estimates 10-million people were affected by the cyclone, and about 500,000 people may have lost their homes. Packing people into shelters raised the risk of Covid-19 spreading, with cases still surging in Bangladesh and neighbouring India.
Many well-meaning education benefactors and commentators in SA have expressed that in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic online self-guided learning could solve some of the current teaching problems and address the educational backlog. What pupils need, the reasoning goes, is to get free internet access to educational support materials on offer online. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, self-guided online learning is doomed to fail. Research shows an exceptionally high dropout rate — even in developed countries. Learners simply have no incentive to keep at their studies without peer pressure, a teacher at hand or a structured learning environment. In SA in particular, with socio-economic disparities and related problems, the dropout rate would be even higher. More so in key subjects like mathematics and physical science where prior knowledge, conceptual understanding and self-motivation to succeed are critical. The only answer, in the country’s unequal teaching environment, is a customised version of blended learning. Blended learning integrates computer-assisted online activities with traditional face-to-face teaching (chalk-and-talk)
SA will have third highest toll in Africa, says world body SA will experience the third highest toll in Africa from the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts. A report by the WHO regional office for Africa, which models the potential effects of widespread community transmission of Covid-19 on the continent, predicts that as many as 24-million South Africans could be infected with the virus. About 20-million of these cases could be non-symptomatic. The world body predicts that 23,661 people in SA could lose their lives to Covid-19. The report outlines the worst-case scenario of transmission in Africa in the event that there are few to no successful interventions. It says community transmission could see 22% of the continental population of about a billion infected over the next year. It identifies 10 countries with the highest risk of exposure – seven small nations plus the more populous countries of SA, Algeria and Cameroon.
The coronavirus has affected the lives of millions of people across the world, including their mental health. At MQ, we surveyed over 3,000 people in the UK to find out what was worrying them, and how they were coping. Find out what people are most concerned about, and get six helpful tips that you can use to look after your mental health during this time.
Governments warn of threat of second wave of cases amid local spikes in infections Several European countries a few weeks ahead of the UK on the road out of lockdown have experienced local spikes in coronavirus infections, but all have maintained an overall downward trend in new daily cases of the virus. Most governments, though, continue to warn of the real threat of a second wave of Covid-19 cases and to insist on the importance of physical distancing if the spread of the virus is not to pick up again as restrictions ease further.
SA is in a race against time to build more than 15,000 ventilators in a matter of weeks to meet a predicted surge in Covid-19 cases. Yet the national ventilator project, launched amid fanfare by the department of trade & industry (DTI) almost two months ago, has yet to kick into top gear. The government acknowledged this week it was still deciding which of the six shortlisted companies it would give contracts to. At the same time, the health department released new projections that 20,000-35,000 ICU beds would be needed between June and November.

March 6, 2020 Archive

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