New study: COVID can survive for 28 days on some surfaces

A new study found that at 20 degrees Celsius, the novel coronavirus was "extremely robust" on smooth surfaces, and could survive for 28 days.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can survive on items such as banknotes and phones for up to 28 days in cool, dark conditions, according to a study by Australia’s national science agency.

Researchers at CSIRO’s disease preparedness centre tested the longevity of SARS-CoV-2 in the dark at three temperatures. The results showed survival rates decreased as conditions became hotter, the agency said Monday.

SARS CoV-2 ‘extremely robust’ on smooth surfaces

The scientists found that at 20 degrees Celsius, SARS-CoV-2 was “extremely robust” on smooth surfaces – like mobile phone screens – surviving for 28 days on glass, steel and plastic banknotes.

At 30 degrees Celsius, the survival rate dropped to seven days and plunged to just 24 hours at 40 degrees Celsius.

The virus survived for shorter periods on porous surfaces such as cotton – up to 14 days at the lowest temperatures and less than 16 hours at the highest – the researchers said.

This was “significantly longer” than previous studies which found the disease could survive for up to four days on non-porous surfaces, according to the paper published in the peer-reviewed Virology Journal.

Trevor Drew, director of the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, said the study involved drying samples of the coronavirus on different materials before testing them, using an “extremely sensitive” method that found traces of live virus able to infect cell cultures.

“This doesn’t mean to say that that amount of virus would be capable of infecting someone,” he told public broadcaster ABC.

He added that if a person was “careless with these materials and touched them and then licked your hands or touched your eyes or your nose, you might well get infected upwards of two weeks after they had been contaminated”.

People ‘far, far more infectious’

Drew said there were several caveats including that the study was conducted with fixed levels of virus that likely represented the peak of a typical infection, and there was an absence of exposure to ultraviolet light, which can rapidly degrade the virus.

Humidity was kept steady at 50%, the study said, as increases in humidity have also been found as detrimental to the coronavirus.

According to the CSIRO, the coronavirus appears to primarily spread through the air but more research was needed to provide further insights into the transmission of the virus via surfaces. CSIRO’s Debbie Eagles said”

“While the precise role of surface transmission, the degree of surface contact and the amount of virus required for infection is yet to be determined, establishing how long this virus remains viable on surfaces is critical for developing risk mitigation strategies in high contact areas”.

The main message remains that “infectious people are far, far more infectious than surfaces”, Drew told the ABC.

“But nevertheless, it may help to explain why even when we got rid of the infectious people, we do occasionally get these breakouts again, sometimes even in a country which is considered to be free,” he said.

Holly Robertson © Agence France-Presse

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Source: The South African Read More

UIF coronavirus Ters payments to resume on Monday

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has further called on employers to submit all outstanding information on its system, to ensure that workers have been paid

Payments from the COVID-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) are set to continue once again from Monday, 21 September 2020.

The disbursements had been placed on hold after Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu found that there were poor verification controls and financial management which led to funds being paid out to people who were not even eligible.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), which funds the scheme, has since scheduled multiple payments to fast track payments this week.

“While the AG has shown us a number of deficiencies in the payment of the Covid-19 Ters benefits, I must hasten to add that many of these deficiencies had been picked up already by management,” acting UIF commissioner Marsha Bronkhorst has said.

Following the findings, Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi announced he would be placing Teboho Maruping, the current UIF commissioner as well as other members of the Fund’s management, on suspension.

Outstanding information being processed

They will be undergoing a full payment run for April, May and June 2020 until Tuesday, 22 September 2020.

“After that, we will plan to run payments for the 1 July to 15 August 2020 period from 23 – 26 September 2020,” Bronkhorst said.

“We are aware that many workers around the country have been placed on the back foot as a result of the need to ensure that our systems stand up to scrutiny, and we close the gaps identified by the Auditor-General,” the acting UIF commissioner further said.

Bronkhorst has also acknowledged that while the inconvenience was greatly regretted, they have since managed to turn things around.

The Fund has further said only ‘competent’ claims should be filed and that incomplete forms will not be automatically processed.

“We still have claims that are yet to be processed in the system because of outstanding information,” Bronkhorst said.

“We urge employers to submit this information and we have made it easier for them to know what is still outstanding by developing the discrepancy tab in the system, and they can also use FAQs on the DEL website”

The COVID-19 TERS benefit applications for March 2020 to end May 2020 will only close on 25 September 2020, while the COVID-19 Ters benefit applications for June 2020 will close on 15 October 2020.

Source: The South African Read More

COVID Alert SA: Is it safe to download the new coronavirus app?

Cyril Ramaphosa has implored all South Africans to download the new coronavirus app: Here's what the experts think of the 'COVID Alert SA' feature.

President Ramaphosa revealed on Wednesday night that he wants ‘everybody with a smartphone in South Africa’ to download the new coronavirus app, developed by the government to assist with track and trace efforts. Cyril explained that the COVID Alert SA feature will ‘quickly identify and contain outbreaks’ before they get out of control.

Cyril Ramaphosa on SA’s new coronavirus app

However, a government-backed, data collection app is a source scepticism for many South Africans. Ramaphosa has tried to get the doubters onside, stressing that anonymity remains a key feature of the device:

“Effective testing and contact tracing systems will allow us to quickly identify and contain outbreaks before they spread further. I want to make a call this evening to everyone who has a smartphone in South Africa to download the COVID Alert mobile app from the Apple AppStore or Google Play Store.”

“The app has been zero-rated by mobile networks, so you can download it without any data costs.The app is completely anonymous, it does not gather any personal information, nor does it track anybody’s location.”

Cyril Ramaphosa

Is it safe to download the COVID Alert SA app?

But, with public trust in the government far from overwhelming in this country, Ramaphosa has an uphill task in trying to convince every citizen to get on board with this project. Thankfully, the fact-checking specialists at explain.co.za have done their own analysis on the COVID Alert SA app – and they reckon that users are ‘fairly safe’ when downloading the feature:

“The app is fairly safe. That’s because it doesn’t actually collect any information about you. Rather, it uses an anonymised code to alert anyone you’ve been in contact with over the last fourteen days if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19. And you’ll get an alert too, if someone you’ve been in contact with in the last fourteen days has tested positive.”

“Your information is not stored anywhere – not a database, not some old cabinet in a dusty government office or in a hacker’s computer. The app appears to be far less invasive than similar apps seen abroad. COVID Alert SA does not collect information about your location, identity or contacts.”

Aarti Bhana of Explain

Download the coronavirus app: How will track and trace work in South Africa?

Contact tracing is a process used to slow the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19. It enables people to record who they have been in direct contact with over the past 14 days, and if they have possibly been infected with COVID-19 as a result. Doing this manually takes time, and there’s always a risk of missing close contacts – technology speeds this up.

Using Bluetooth, the app emits a randomly generated code picked by other users when two phones are in close proximity if one another. Each user builds an “encounter history” through this method, and at no point is anyone’s identity revealed.

When one user tests positive, they are requested to report their diagnosis anonymously in the COVID Alert SA app. All other users who have been in contact with them over the past 14 days will immediately be notified of their exposure.

The pros and cons of COVID Alert SA

Data privacy researcher Murray Hunter also shared his expert opinion. He stated that the coronavirus app developed by the government ‘has no idea who’s who’, and that Ramaphosa is telling the truth about the identity protection equipment. However, Hunter did concede there’s at least one privacy shortcoming, related to ‘public policy’.

Essentially, COVID Alert SA will protect your anonymity, and it’s severely limited in terms of what information it can pass on. However, it has been argued that more downloads are needed before the government can prove this is an effective app:

“The privacy infrastructure is generally good on this, the government and health authorities have no idea who’s who and it kind of relies on the honour system for each of us to correctly report our COVID status, so our contacts can be duly notified”

“I do think that a lot more information needs to be made public about the role the app is playing in public policy and how many people are needed to use it before it becomes effective. That information has not been provided and it’s important if people are to wrap their heads around this.”

Murray Hunter

Source: The South African Read More

Germany hosts concerts to study how coronavirus spreads

On Saturday 22 August, three concerts were hosted in Leipzig, Germany as part of an experiment to understand how the coronavirus spreads in large indoor stadium events.

The study was organised by German scientists at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and featured three concerts, headlined by German singer Tim Bendzko.

The experiment, titled Restart-19, saw 1,500 volunteers aged 18 to 50 heading into the Arena Leipzig where three concert simulations were conducted with different admission plans, seat assignments, and health and safety protocols.

The concert experiment

It was the first time since German authorities banned major events at the start of the pandemic that people were allowed inside an indoor arena, but all participants had to test negative for COVID-19 48 hours before the event and wear FFP2 protective face masks throughout the event.  

The first concert was conducted under pre-pandemic conditions with normal seating arrangements and no hygiene and safety regulations. The second concert focused on hygiene and some social distancing, and the third concert was put on with a much smaller audience and greater social distances between participants.

The experiment, which reportedly cost almost $1.2 million, aimed to collect data on crowd behaviour to understand how coronavirus spreads at large social gatherings and how to prevent it.

Germany was quick to respond to the pandemic when it reared its head earlier in the year, however, there has been a rise in case numbers recently with the daily number of new infections surpassing 2,000 for the first time since April.

When asked to comment to the experiment, Saxony-Anhalt’s Minister of Economics and Science said: “The corona pandemic is paralysing the event industry. As long as there is a risk of infection, major concerts, trade fairs, and sporting events cannot take place. This is why it is so important to find out which technical and organisational conditions can effectively minimise the risks.”

Data collected from the experiment will be fed into a mathematical model to evaluate the risks of the virus spreading in a large concert venue. The results are expected later this year.

Also read: Plants fill seats for Barcelona opera concert

Source: The South African Read More

African leagues: Morocco, Egypt clubs hit by coronavirus

Morocco and Egypt were among the African leagues that were forced to postpone matches due to the virus this weekend.

More than 20 positive tests for coronavirus at several clubs led to the postponement or cancellation of African league matches at the weekend.

African leagues hit by coronavirus

Three matchday 22 fixtures were called off in the Moroccan Botola Pro 1 with Ittihad Tangier worst affected as 23 of the staff tested positive.

Wydad Casablanca and Rapide Oued Zem were also hit by a COVID-19 outbreak and could not play.

Egyptian club Al Masry said 22 of their staff tested positive and the Port Said outfit did not turn up for a fixture against Ismaily.

EGYPT

With runaway leaders Al Ahly set for a record-extending 42nd title, arch rivals Zamalek improved their chances of coming second thanks to a 1-0 win over lowly Misr Lel Makkasa.

Forward Hossam Ashraf scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to secure three points for Zamalek, whose rivalry with fellow Cairo club Ahly dates back to 1911.

Third-place Pyramids FC had to come from two goals behind to draw 2-2 against relegation-threatened El Gaish with Tunisian Amor Layouni levelling eight minutes from time.

Ahly have 53 points, Zamalek 38, Pyramids 36 and Al Mokawloon Al Arab 34 in the strongest league in the continent judged by Confederation of African Football (CAF) titles.

MOROCCO

Raja Casablanca won 2-0 at lowly Hassania Agadir and extended an unbeaten run to six matches since play resumed last month after a suspension since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The leaders needed just three minutes to break the deadlock in southern Morocco with Soufiane Rahimi scoring and Hamid Ahaddad added a second goal soon after half-time.

Raja have won four matches and drawn two since the resumption, and the 14-point haul has propelled them to the top of the table with nine rounds remaining.

The three-time African champions have 42 points, arch-rivals Wydad Casablanca 40, Renaissance Berkane 39 and FUS Rabat and Mouloudia Oujda 36 each.

TUNISIA

Leaders Esperance snatched a 1-1 draw at Etoile Sahel in the biggest matchday 20 attraction of the Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1.

Karim Aribi gave fourth-place Etoile a 19th-minute lead they held until the third minute of additional time when Taha Yassine Khenissi equalised.

Ivorian Chris Kouakou netted after 14 minutes to earn second-place CS Sfaxien a 1-0 home victory over mid-table Soliman.

Esperance have 50 points with six rounds remaining as they chase a fourth straight title, Sfaxien 40, Monastir 39, Etoile 34 and Club Africain 33.

ZANZIBAR

Mlandege have been crowned champions in the semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, garnering 68 points from 30 matches to finish one point above Zimamoto.

It was the seventh title for the club, but the first since 2002, and success qualifies them for a maiden CAF Champions League appearance next season.

Zimamoto trounced Kapinga 4-0 in the final round while JKU came third after drawing 1-1 with Malindi.

Defending champions KMKM had to settle for fourth spot, 12 points adrift of Mlandege, after a 2-2 draw against Mafunzo.

© Agence France-Presse

Source: The South African Read More

Ramaphosa: ‘Together we can eradicate coronavirus’

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said after a rapid rise in infections over the last two months, the daily increase in infections appears to be stabilising, particularly in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape

South Africa has worryingly breached more than 500 000 cases of the coronavirus, and it is in that respect that President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged citizens to continue practicing the necessary health and safety measures until the pandemic is over.

In a statement on Saturday, 1 August 2020, Ramaphosa called on South Africans to maintain their vigilance and warned that failure to do so would lead to a resurgence of cases “in those areas where the virus has now begun to stabilise.”

Ramaphosa said above all, prevention measures needed to be followed to reduce the rate of infection and flatten the curve.

“By wearing a mask correctly, keeping a distance of two metres from other people, and washing our hands regularly, we can protect ourselves, our families, friends, co-workers, fellow commuters and neighbours”, he said.

‘Preventative measures are yielding results’

The president said after a rapid rise in infections over the last two months, the daily increase in infections appears to be stabilising, particularly in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape.

He said while it could be too soon to tell, this suggests that the prevention measures that South Africans have implemented are having an effect.

“Our recovery rate is currently around 68%. Our case fatality rate – which is the number of deaths as a proportion of confirmed cases – remains at 1.6%, significantly lower than the global average”, Ramaphosa said.

“While South Africa has the fifth highest number of total COVID-19 cases globally, we have only the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population. For this, we are grateful to the work of our health professionals and the innovative treatments they have pioneered”

The president further reiterated that the national lockdown, which he implemented in March, succeeded in delaying the spread of COVID-19 by more than two months.

“Had South Africans not acted together to prevent this outcome, our health system would have been overwhelmed in every province. This would have resulted in a dramatic loss of life”

Provision of additional resources

Ramaphosa also said provinces experiencing an increase in infections would receive more facilities, equipment and personnel.

He said they were working hard to fix the logistical and other problems that have led to a shortage of personal protective equipment for health workers and other frontline staff in several parts of the country.

“We understand the concerns and the frustrations of these essential workers and are committed to resolving this issue with the greatest urgency”, the president said.

This comes as the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) had expressed concern over the dire state of some facilities across the country.

Source: The South African Read More