Inside Covid-19: Could exposure to cold virus explain low SA death rate? Vaccines, child deaths. Ep 84

Written on 09/14/2020
Jackie Cameron

In this episode, we hear about what driving patterns tell us about the impact of Covid-19 on the South African economy. Discovery Insure’s Head of Technical Marketing and Vitality Drive engagement, Precious Nduli, speaks to BizNews founder Alec Hogg about the effects of the national lockdown on behaviour, and how this evolved as the country began to re-open. As South African experts explore why death rates may not be as high in the country as elsewhere, an international expert speaks to BizNews about T-cells, which may account for higher immunity in township communities. Immunologist from San Diego, Dr Daniela Weiskopf of the Jolla Institute for Immunology, speaks to BizNews reporter Linda van Tilburg about whether immunity is more prevalent in poorer, more crowded communities – and why this might be the case. – Jackie Cameron

Inside Covid-19 headlines

  • Just under 15,500 are reported as having died of Covid-19 in South Africa. About 33% of the 650,000 Covid-19 cases have been reported in Gauteng, with KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape reporting about 17% each, says the South African government.
  • Global coronavirus cases surpassed 29 million as India, the epicentre of the pandemic, reported more than 90,000 for a fifth straight day, says Bloomberg.
  • Pfizer Inc.’s chief executive officer said it’s likely the US will deploy a Covid-19 shot before the end of the year, though another vaccine maker’s CEO warned global supplies won’t be sufficient until late 2024. AstraZeneca Plc restarted testing after its vaccine trial was halted last week, says the news service.
  • Israel’s cabinet backed a second national lockdown, while gatherings in the UK will be restricted as new cases climb at a pace not seen since May. UK bar operator J. D. Wetherspoon’s shares dropped after the company said many customers continue to steer clear of pubs.
  • The City of London began a pilot program that rates the coronavirus safety measures put in place by pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops. Businesses that pass the risk assessment, which includes a site visit to assess social distancing measures, tracing procedures and cleanliness, will receive a sticker they can display at their premises, says Bloomberg.
  • There won’t be enough Covid-19 vaccines available for everyone in the world until the end of 2024 at the earliest, the chief of the world’s largest vaccine maker said in an interview with the Financial Times. Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India, which has a partnership to produce AstraZeneca’s shot, said in the report that drug companies weren’t increasing production capacity quickly enough to vaccinate the global population in less time.
  • Bloomberg says the forecast comes as others — from Donald Trump to Pfizer Inc.’s CEO — have said a vaccine will be ready as early as this year, though manufacturing enough shots and getting them to all corners of the globe will take far longer. Governments have scrambled to make deals securing supplies, raising concerns that poorer developing nations will be last in line for administering shots.
  • UK researchers will start testing an antibody cocktail developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. in a key trial of possible Covid-19 treatments, as the infection rate in Britain surges again. The drug will be given to hospitalized patients in the Recovery trial and assessed for all-cause mortality against those receiving the usual standard of care, Regeneron and the University of Oxford, which is running the trial, said in a statement Monday. The researchers will also look at length of hospital stay and need for ventilation. At least 2,000 people are expected to receive the cocktail, says Bloomberg.
  • While most children who get Covid-19 develop little more than a mild illness, several hundred have ended up in hospital intensive care units with alarming symptoms that begin appearing weeks after the initial infection, says The Conversation. This new condition progresses rapidly and can strike multiple organs and systems, including the heart, lungs, eyes, skin and gastrointestinal system. It’s known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. More than 790 U.S. cases had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of Sept. 3, and 16 of those children have died, writes Ritu Banerjee, Associate Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University.
  • Covid-19 can ravage the body, targeting the lungs, heart and blood vessels. To curb this wide-ranging attack, scientists are focusing on another part of the body: the nose, says Science News. The virus that causes the illness, SARS-CoV-2, gains its foothold by infecting certain nasal cells, studies suggest. As a result, the nose has emerged as a key battleground in the war against Covid-19. Slowing or stopping that nasal invasion might ultimately be powerful enough to change the course of the pandemic, some scientists suspect, Science News reports. “So far, no such therapies exist. But people who study the nose and its contents bring fresh perspectives about the early stages of Covid-19 infections. Scientists are developing and testing ways to prevent the virus from settling in to prime nasal real estate. These include a nose spray that smothers and inactivates a key viral protein, disinfectants that are commonly used before sinus surgeries, and even dilute baby shampoo misted up the nose.”
  • A Chinese pharmaceutical company has injected hundreds of thousands of people with experimental Covid-19 vaccines, as its Western counterparts warn against administering mass vaccinations before rigorous scientific studies are complete, says Bloomberg. Separately, Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. said it has inoculated around 3,000 of its employees and their family members, including the firm’s chief executive, with its experimental coronavirus vaccine, it reports.