381,798 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa as deaths climb to 5,368

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now a total of 381,798 cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 8,170 cases from the 373,628 infections reported on Monday.

The minister announced 195 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking the total to 5,368 casualties, following a 24-hour high of 216 casualties last Wednesday.

He pointed to 208,144 recoveries to date.

A total of 2.54 million tests have been conducted, with 31,275 tests conducted over the past 24 hours, Dr Mkhize said

Since 31 December 2019 and as of 21 July 2020, approximately 14.9 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported, including approximately 615,000 deaths, and around 9 million recoveries.

European regulators  meanwhile, could approve the first vaccine against Covid-19 this year, after a flurry of trials by drugmakers leading the race showed promising results, Bloomberg reported.

“We are preparing ourselves for that possibility so that we as regulators will be ready,” Marco Cavaleri, head of anti-infectives and vaccines at the European Medicines Agency, said in an interview Tuesday.

“It will be a matter of seeing whether this data could be sufficient for allowing any kind of approval by the end of 2020.”

Separately, UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s senior medical adviser, Chris Whitty, said there is only a slim chance of an effective vaccine being available by Christmas, even as the University of Oxford reported progress on its initiative.

UIF relief extended

Employment and Labour deputy minister Boitumelo Moloi says the Covid-19 Temporary Employers/ Employee Relief Fund, set up to help those who found themselves out of work due to lockdown, will be extended to August.

This comes after president Cyril Ramaphosa extended the national state of disaster to August as the Covid-19 pandemic spurs national efforts to mitigate the spread of infections.

“I must say, honourable members, that it gives me great pleasure to also announce that following due diligence and consultation with the UIF actuaries and in line with the President’s decision to extend the life of the Disaster Management Act until the 15th of August 2020, we have taken a decision to similarly extend the Covid-19 TERS benefit until the 15th of August 2020,” she said.

Moloi said this when she led a debate on the department’s budget vote via a virtual National Assembly mini-plenary on Tuesday in place of minister Thulas Nxesi, who could not make the plenary due to ill health.

Nxesi was admitted to hospital for better medical care on the advice of his medical doctors last night after testing positive for Covid-19 over a week ago.

Addressing the plenary, Moloi said the benefit structure and existing criteria would remain the same and applications for April and May will be closed by the end of July although applications already received for these two months will be processed – this is the guarantee that the department gave to the people.

To date, some R34 billion in benefits has been distributed through employers in 7.4 million payments to recipients and this was in line with a commitment to provide income support for three months.

During the same period, a further R4 billion was disbursed in normal UIF benefits in 677,000 payments to beneficiaries.

“The provision of the Covid-19 TERS benefit also required strict financial controls and I am reassured, honourable chairperson and Honourable Members, that it was the UIF itself that detected recent attempted fraudulent activities and I am also encouraged by the speedy response of our law enforcement agencies in bringing the culprits to book,” she said.

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