159,333 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as deaths climb to 2,749

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 159,333 total cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 8,124 cases from 151,209 cases reported on Tuesday – a new 24-hour high for the country.

The minister announced 92 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking the total to 2,749 casualties, with 76,025 recoveries to date.

A total of 1.66 million tests have been conducted, with 36,931 tests conducted over the past 24 hours, Dr Mkhize said.

Globally, since 31 December 2019 and as of 01 July 2020, in excess of 10.6 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported, and more than 515,000 deaths, with 5.8 million recoveries.

An early trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNtech SE showed it’s safe and prompted patients to produce antibodies against the new virus, keeping it in the lead pack for a pandemic shot, Bloomberg reported.

The messenger RNA product was tested on 45 healthy adults divided in several groups: 24 of them got two injections with two different doses of the experimental vaccine, 12 of them received a single shot with a very high dose and nine patients got two dummy injections.

The two-shot groups produced the highest level of antibodies.

Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech are in a race with companies including AstraZeneca Plc, Moderna Inc and dozens of other biopharmaceutical outfits and academic groups to come up with a safe and effective vaccine against Covid-19.

On Monday, the company released promising results on an experimental vaccine without giving enough detailed data.

The study of Pfizer’s and BioNtech’s vaccine candidate, called BNT162b1, is undergoing scientific peer review, the partners said.

The companies are evaluating at least four experimental vaccines at various doses and will pick the most promising one to move into the next stage of tests, which may start as early as this month and involve as many as 30,000 patients.

If the vaccine is successful, the companies expect to manufacture up to 100 million doses by the end of this year and potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021.

They would jointly to distribute the product worldwide except in China, where BioNTech has a collaboration with Fosun Pharma.

There were no severe side effects in the study. Some patients had pain at the injection site and a low-grade fever after the second injection. One of the patients who got the single high dose experienced severe pain where he received the shot.

Lockdown caution

Intellidex analyst Peter Attard Montalto says that there is a strong risk that there will be higher level lockdowns in South Africa’s major metros in the next two months, as social and political pressure mounts to “do something” about accelerating Covid-19 cases.

“There is still a strong risk we believe that higher stage metro lockdowns are possible in July and August – next week’s NCC is a key test here to start,” Attard Montalto said in a note on Wednesday.

“Whilst economically locking back down metros which represent some 61% of GDP is very tough, we see politically a point may come when there is no option but that ‘something must be done’. Comments from provinces have indicated that the central government is still communicating that this is an active risk,” he said.

His comments come after health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday (30 June) said that implementing hard lockdowns in localised districts will remain a possibility as Covid-19 cases spike – but no such decision has been taken at this stage.

Speaking in a series of radio interviews on Tuesday morning, Mkhize said there are concerns over the rate at which case numbers are rising in Gauteng, especially.

Mkhize told Radio 702, that a move back to a stricter lockdown will always remain a possibility, and government will not hesitate to move back to that if it is deemed necessary.

“We have warned over a while that the surge would come. We said we need to look out for the winter months, and I’m afraid the numbers are increasing, and we need out people to be aware and take all the necessary precautions to protect themselves,” Mkhize said.

“While the lockdown helped us with our models, we were clear that you can’t keep it longer than what we did. We must still do it another time in the future; however, we need to get back to normal life, back to work. We’re trying to balance those two, and we need the utmost cooperation and unity as we go about it,” he said

“A hard lockdown will always remain a possibility. You must realise that when we released the first lockdown it wasn’t because that was the last time we were going to do it. It may be necessary (to implement hard lockdown again) – but when that situation comes we will talk about it.”

Read: Gauteng has hit a critical coronavirus milestone – these are the hotspot areas

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