144,264 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as deaths climb to 2,529

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 144,264 total cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 6,130 cases from 138,134 cases reported on Monday – while a record 24-hour high of 7,210 cases was recorded over the weekend.

The minister announced 73 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking the total to 2,529 casualties, with 70,614 recoveries to date.

A total of 1.59 million tests have been conducted to date, with 29,911 tests conducted over the past 24 hours, Dr Mkhize said.

Globally, since 31 December 2019 and as of 28 June 2020, in excess of 10.2 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported, including in excess of 505,000 deaths, and 5.57 million recoveries.

Gilead Sciences said it will charge the US government and other developed countries $390 per vial for its coronavirus-fighting drug remdesivir, or about $2,340 for a typical five-day course of treatment.

“We wanted to make sure that nothing gets in the way of remdesivir getting to patients,” said Gilead chief executive officer, Daniel O’Day in an interview.  The price “will make sure all patients around the world have access to this medicine”.

The $390 per vial price is for government entities. Once supply is less tight and Gilead starts selling the drug in normal distribution channels, the list price for private insurance companies and other commercial payers in the US will be $520 a vial, or $3,120 for a five-day course.

Remdesivir is one of the first widely used drugs for Covid-19. It received an emergency use authorisation from US regulators in May, after a trial found the medicine hastened recovery by about four days in hospitalized patients.

Opening the skies

While international passenger flights remain prohibited, with the exception of those authorised by the transport minister, seven more airports are set to resume operations on 1 July 2020.

At an aviation industry briefing on Monday, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said in addition to the airports (OR Tambo, Lanseria, Cape Town International and King Shaka International) that are currently operational, the following would open on 1 July:

  • Bram Fischer International Airport;
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport;
  • Pietermaritzburg Airport;
  • Port Elizabeth International Airport;
  • Richardsbay Airport;
  • Skukuza Airport, and
  • Upington International Airport.

“As more airports are opened, this will naturally increase the number of passengers at airports and therefore measures have been put in place to ensure that passengers are prepared for their experience at the airports to avoid congestion, mainly at security check points,” said Mbalula, noting that operations will have to be managed properly come 1 July.

The Minister said to date the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has received about 117 standard operating procedures (SOPs) from industry and more than 87 have been approved.

While sanitisers are classified as dangerous goods, the SACAA has made provision for the carrying of such, in limited quantities, as a safety measure and in compliance with existing regulations to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

For smoother facilitation of passengers at airports, operators have urged the flying community to arrive at least two hours early to allow for sufficient time to process passengers, while adhering to the screening requirements – as per the regulations.

In addition, SACAA has also reviewed its earlier decision of ‘no catering’ on board aircraft by permitting airlines to provide pre-packed meals, which must be placed in front of the seat for each passenger before passengers board the aircraft. This, the Minister said, will allow for minimised movement during flight.

Mbalula said the decision to open more airports was one made after government conducted inspections at the airports, and is satisfied were satisfied with the developments.

“It was critical for us to test the efficiency and impact of the guidelines we issued against the health and safety of the passengers and aviation personnel operating in this space and we are pleased with the progress we have observed to date.

“Like any other area, we are making continuous improvement in areas where we observed challenges, in consultation with the Department of Health representatives, specifically Port Health,” Mbalula said.

Permitted activities

As part of the relaxation of regulations, all aerial work to conduct the following will be permitted from 1 July 2020:

Agricultural spraying, seeding and dusting; cloud spraying, seeding and dusting; culling; construction; aerial harvesting; aerial patrol, observation and survey; aerial advertisement, including banner towing and other towing of objects; search and rescue; parachuting; aerial recording by photographic or electronic means; fire spotting, control and fighting, and spraying, seeding or dusting, other than for agricultural purposes and clouds.

Read: 6 lockdown changes announced for South Africa

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