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COVID-19 quick insights from 6 April

South Africa reports 12th coronavirus death as mass testing begins in the Western Cape and the WHO gives clarity on the wearing of masks.

Gauteng healthcare workers screening Alexandra residents for coronavirus (COVID-19) on 31 March 2020 following the roll out of massive community screenings and testing programmes by the provincial executive council. Picture: Ahmed Kajee/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - South Africa has reported its 12th coronavirus death as mass testing begins in the Western Cape and the WHO gives clarity on the wearing of masks.

DAY 11 OF LOCKDOWN

BY THE NUMBERS

• Another death on Monday – a 57-year-old man from the Western Cape. He had underlying conditions – diabetes and heart disease.

• Total number of cases now stands at 1,686 – 31 new cases confirmed.

• In total, 58,098 tests have been conducted.

• This is the week that mass testing really begins in earnest – so we’ll really only have a clear view of the true spread of the virus in communities (especially densely populated communities) in the days (and maybe weeks) to come.

MASS SCREENING AND TESTING CAMPAIGN

• The mass screening and testing campaign started over the weekend in the Western Cape.

• Yesterday the province’s Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo visited centres set up in Paarl in the Cape Winelands.

• 6 people in the area have tested positive, and four more are in isolation awaiting results.

• Provincial authorities are targetting so-called hotspots for the testing drive – they've identified the areas for targeting by geo-mapping local transmission. Health workers will go door to door in affected areas, screen patients for symptoms and refer them for testing if necessary.

WATCH: Timeline: A month of coronavirus in SA

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH MASKS?

• The science around the virus moves almost as fast as the virus and because of that there’s been a lot of confusion about whether we should all be wearing masks to protect us from infection.

• The WHO initially advocated against the use of masks, except for healthcare workers and those who are already sick, and in South Africa, we’ve had many conflicting views – sometimes from multiple high ranking health professionals on the same day.

• The biggest issue was that if everyone bought up the masks, there’d be none left for the people who really need them – those on the frontlines of the fight – the healthcare workers dealing with the sick.

• There were also concerns that wearing a mask could lull someone into a false sense of security, and make them less likely to properly socially distance, wash their hands, etc.

• Then there’s the matter of properly handling the mask – there's a way to put it on and take it off, to avoid getting infected.

• The general idea has been to ensure good hygiene, social distance and good respiratory etiquette.

• But Monday, the WHO said wearing facemasks could be justified in areas where hand-washing and physical distancing are difficult.

• But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said masks alone though were no "silver bullet".

• He also once again stressed the mass use of medical masks could exacerbate the shortage of protective equipment for healthcare workers.

WATCH: COVID-19 Situation Desk - 6 April 2020 PM

AGRICULTURE

• Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza says we are producing enough food to get us through the lockdown period, and the months to come. She’s issued another appeal to refrain from stockpiling and panic buying.

• More details about the government programme to try to and ensure food security, by supporting small-scale farmers through a grant scheme.

• Small-scale farmers will be able to apply for R1.2 billion in grant funding from starting on 8 April, applications close on 22 April – no late applications will be accepted.

• Qualifying criteria: farmers must have been actively farming for a minimum of 12 months, must be SA citizens.

• Farmers currently in production must be registered on farmer register; a commodities database; or a provincial database. But those who are not registered will be registered at the point of application.

• They are targeting farmers farming in communal/traditional areas – smallholders with an annual turnover of between R1,000 and R1 million a year.

• To register, go to www.dalrrd.gov.za or email to applications@dalrrd.gov.za

•This will help farmers pay for:
- Poultry farmers: day-old-chicks; feed; medication; feed; point of lay; sawdust.
- Vegetable farmers: seedlings; fertiliser; pesticides; herbicides and soil corrections.
- Fruit farmers: final spraying processes for fruits that are already being harvested eg avos; wine grapes; table grapes; apples.
- Livestock farmers: feed and medication.
- Winter field crop farmers: seeds; fertiliser; pesticides; herbicides and soil corrections.

• Department will prioritise female small-scale farmers with 50% of funding allocated to them; 40% to youth farmers and 6% to farmers with disabilities.

• Excludes mechanisation, structures etc; and can’t be used to pay debt.

• Farmers preparing for the summer season will not be supported.

• Land Bank has a R100m fund for farmers in distress.

• Won’t be paid in cash – but in vouchers for specific needs for production.

GLOBALLY

• British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to ICU on Monday night – he tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and was admitted to hospital. He’s reportedly conscious.

• Man City coach Pep Guardiola's mother died of complications arising from the virus.

• At the same time, as the death rate in Spain and Italy continue to decline, European nations are looking ahead to when to ease lockdowns. Italy and Spain account for 40% of the world’s total infections.

• In the US, a member of the coronavirus task force warned on national TV that the nation is beginning a rough week. Admiral Brett Giroir said: “It’s going to be the peak hospitalisation, peak ICU week and unfortunately, peak death week”.

• Confirmed US cases passed 336,000 over the weekend, with more than 10,000 deaths reported.

• Globally more than 1.25 million people have been confirmed infected since the virus first emerged, more than 70,000 have died.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.

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