In this episode, we look at the global vaccine race, in an interview with expert Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Health Care, World Economic Forum. He sets out who is likely to get the vaccine and why we must prepare for coping with Covid-19 in our midsts at least until 2023. Also coming up, with the world spotlight on mental health, we hear how South Africans are coping in the era of Covid-19, with Dr Seranne Motilal of Discovery Vitality – which hosts a special, free webinar this week where you can hear insights from a range of experts on how to help yourself and your family members through difficult times (registration link). – Jarryd Neves & Jackie Cameron
Inside Covid-19 headlines
- In South Africa as of the start of the week, there were 692,471 cases reported by the government. Total recoveries: 623,765; Total deaths: 17,780; New cases: 1,575. South Africa is number 11 on the list of countries hardest hit by Covid-19. US has the highest number of deaths at 215,000.
- The new coronavirus may remain infectious for weeks on banknotes, glass and other common surfaces, according to research by Australia’s top biosecurity laboratory that highlights risks from paper currency, touchscreen devices and grab handles and rails, reports Bloomberg. Scientists at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness showed SARS-CoV-2 is “extremely robust,” surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens and plastic banknotes at room temperature, or 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). That compares with 17 days survival for the flu virus. Virus survival declined to less than a day at 40 degrees Celsius on some surfaces, according to the study, published in Virology Journal. The findings add to evidence that the Covid-19-causing coronavirus survives for longer in cooler weather, making it potentially harder to control in winter than summer. The research also helps to more accurately predict and mitigate the pandemic’s spread, the scientists said. “Our results show that SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious on surfaces for long periods of time, reinforcing the need for good practices such as regular hand washing and cleaning surfaces,” said co-author Debbie Eagles, the center’s deputy director, in an emailed statement Monday. Before SARS-CoV-2 was declared a pandemic, China had started decontaminating its paper currency, suggesting concerns over transmission via paper banknotes existed at the time, the researchers said, noting that the US and South Korea have also quarantined bank notes as a result of the pandemic.
- Could BCG vaccine protect against Covid-19? A largescale global trial designed to test the theory that the widely-used BCG vaccine could help protect against Covid-19 will soon recruit healthcare staff and care home workers in the UK. The University of Exeter says i is leading the UK arm of the trial, called the ‘BCG vaccination to Reduce the impact of Covid-19 in healthcare workers’ (BRACE) Trial. “The BRACE trial is coordinated by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne, Australia. The trial has received more than $10M from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to allow its global expansion. The Peter Sowerby Foundation has contributed funding to support the Exeter trial site.” The UK joins study centres in Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Brazil in the largest trial of its kind. Together, the trial will recruit more than 10,000 healthcare staff, says the university. It explains that participants will be given either the BCG vaccine (currently given to more than 100 million babies worldwide each year to protect against tuberculosis (TB)) or a placebo injection. In the UK, routine BCG vaccination was stopped in 2005 because of low rates of TB in the general population.
- Poland is considering whether to introduce a state of emergency. This, says Bloomberg, is the next step if the coronavirus outbreak starts to clog the health-care system, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna reported, citing unidentified people from the government. A state of emergency would allow the government to move more health-care workers to deal with Covid-19 patients, and open the door for companies to receive compensation for any potential losses.
- New Zealand is to buy Covid-19 vaccines for 750,000 people. New Zealand agreed to purchase enough vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for 750,000 people, says Bloomberg. The pact is subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, according to Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins in an emailed statement.
- China’s Qingdao reports more cases. China reported a new cluster of coronavirus infections in the eastern port city of Qingdao, snapping a streak of over two months without local transmission, underscoring the risk of resurgence in countries that have achieved near-eradication of the pathogen, says Bloomberg. The city in Shandong province said on Sunday that it found three asymptomatic cases linked to a hospital which treats Covid-19 patients coming from abroad. Expanded testing of hospital patients and staff then found another nine infections — of the total of 12 in the cluster so far, six are asymptomatic. More testing is under way and aims to cover the entire city of 9.5 million within five days, the local health commission said on Monday.
- Brazil’s deaths reach six-month low. Brazil reported 290 virus-related deaths in its latest daily count, the fewest since April 5, according to Health Ministry data, says Bloomberg. Weekly new cases fell to the lowest since early June during the seven days that ended Saturday. The country, which has the most reported infections behind the U.S. and India, added 12,342 cases, bringing the total to almost 5.1 million. The official death toll rose to 150,488.
- Trump says he’s now immune, unlike Biden. Trump pitched what he called his post-infection immunity to Covid-19 as an advantage over Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, in his first interview since doctors certified he was no longer at risk of transmitting the deadly virus, reports Bloomberg. “Once you do recover, you’re immune, so you don’t have a president who has to hide in his basement, like his opponent,” Trump said Sunday in a lengthy interview on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”