373,628 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as deaths climb to 5,173

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now a total of 373,628 cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 9,300 cases from the 364,328 infections reported on Sunday.

The minister announced 140 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking the total to 5,173 casualties, following a 24-hour high of 216 casualties last Wednesday.

He pointed to 194,865 recoveries to date.

A total of 2.5 million tests have been conducted, with 33,899 tests conducted over the past 24 hours, Dr Mkhize said.

Since 31 December 2019 and as of 20 July 2020, approximately 14.7 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported, including approximately 609,000 deaths, and around 8.77 million recoveries.

A coronavirus vaccine the University of Oxford is developing with AstraZeneca showed increased levels of both protective neutralising antibodies and immune T-cells that target the virus, according to the study organisers, Bloomberg reported.

The results were published Monday in The Lancet medical journal.

Pfizer and BioNTech said preliminary data from a phase 1/2 German study indicate their mRNA-based vaccine candidate was able to stimulate antibody as well as T-cell responses at low dose levels.

The data is in line with what the companies observed in a US study.

Meanwhile, shares of Synairgen, a tiny pharmaceutical firm born out of a UK university, soared four-fold after the company said its experimental inhaled drug cut the risk of developing the worst symptoms of Covid-19.

KZN expected to be the next epicentre

While the number of new Covid-19 cases is stabilising in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal is expected to join Gauteng as the country’s epicentre, health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has warned.

“In the country, Gauteng is still at the top of the rate of infections. KwaZulu-Natal is taking over now,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize said his department is in discussions with the coastal province on how to move ahead, as infections are expected to peak in the next few weeks. He said the goal now is to avert a shortage of beds and oxygen.

Mkhize was speaking during his visit to the Nasrec Field Hospital in Johannesburg to assess Gauteng’s readiness for the Covid-19 surge.

He has applauded the clinicians for a job well done in the battle to save lives and he once again affirmed his support.

“There’s no formula or textbook for this. Whenever as you clinicians feel the pressure, you need to make sure that everybody feels it, so that we must respond.

“My phone is on. Do not feel shy to call. This is an emergency, a crisis, so there is no protocol here. There is work.”

He has also addressed reports that Gauteng hospital beds are full, which he believes is created by the delays in getting test results, causing patients to be kept under investigation for longer in hospital.

“Secondly, [we believe if] the availability of oxygen [is not an issue] – if we can make sure we do not have that pressure – then I think we could be fine.”

Mkhize said the department is working around the clock to create more bed capacity so no one is turned away at hospital gates.

“There are those who may not be admitted because of the doctor’s decision, that’s it (sic). It will not be because of space, but because of the clinical judgement that you are going to be treated somewhere else and not in the hospital,” the minister said.

He said the drop in trauma patient numbers gave them a huge advantage and will assist clinicians with dealing with Covid-19 patients in the next few weeks.

“Until the surge hits you, you don’t know how to behave. You will only know when you are in the heat of it,” said Mkhize.

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