Rupert Covid-19 donations debunked or not?

NEWS that former apartheid financier and bankster, Johann Rupert was ‘donating’ R1 billion to small business relief via the President’s so-called Solidarity fund, raised the ire of many critics who argued that the donation was in fact a loan.

The controversy recalls similar prevarication issued by the Ruperts, especially in regard to the family’s collaboration with the apartheid regime.

Sunday World at first broke the story that the funds would be used as loans not bailouts

Moneyweb soon followed suit, by questioning the publicity stunt, but then decided to fudge the matter somewhat. The devil as they say was in the detail, — what at first appeared to be a massive credit might yet turn out to be a very large debit:

As investment analyst David Morobe explained, the money was in fact a donation to the fund but the “assistance will be in the form of a loan, which is repayable over a period of five years.”

“For the first year, applicants will not have to pay interest or instalments, but thereafter they will be expected to do so.”

The Citizen similarly varied its piece on the subject, but carried word of opposition party the EFF and its open disgust for the manner in which the crisis was being used “entrap” small and medium enterprises in debt. The party even went as far as to accuse the billionaire of trying to be a “loan shark”.

Meanwhile the only person to have ever experienced discrimination at Naspers/Media24 headquarters during apartheid, according to the company, has died. Former Stellenbosch Mayor Conrad Sidego passed away this week bringing a close to a chapter in which he was the sole person to have been affected by apartheid.

It should strike readers as incredibly odd (or just a tad convenient), that nobody in the media found pause to consider that the Rupert’s various investments in the media came about as a result of apartheid — the late Anton Rupert’s close business relationship to Nico Diederichs and Owen Horward, both stanch Nationalists and close confidants of the late PW Botha.

 

 

Covid-19 Anti-Vaxers stage a comeback, but fail to check facts

IT STARTED with an interview on Al Jazeera, some brazen French researchers making shocking off-the-cuff remarks about a study on the potential use of the BCG vaccine against COVID-19 in Africa. Taken at face value, it appeared that the French were once again conducting openly racist, TB vaccine experiments in their former colonies. That’s TB as in Tuberculosis.

The story quickly escalated and amplified into a headline grabbing: ‘Senator Wetangu’la calls on African leaders to reject COVID-19 vaccine test on continent‘. As journalists failed to check if what was being said was relevant or even true. The French embassy was moved to caution that the researcher’s opinions “do not reflect the position of the French authorities.

By Sunday, Anti-Vaxers were having a field day on twitter, but hadn’t bothered to check the facts. Yes, Covid-19 Vaccine trials are being conducted on EVERY continent, not just our own,

The first was a Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an ‘investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)’ begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle, USA.

Phase 1 trials involve testing of drugs or vaccines on healthy volunteers for safety, and  also testing multiple doses (dose-ranging). Most countries such as South Africa have regulatory checks in place to avoid citizens becoming unwitting participants to phase 1 trials.

Our Constitution specifically outlaws such experimentation and states under Article 12  (2) Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right— (a) to make decisions concerning reproduction; (b) to security in and control over their body; and (c) not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent. 

Trials of Covid-19 related vaccines have already been conducted in Japan and elsewhere.

Large scale global trials involving patients from Argentina to Thailand under the auspices of the WHO are already underway.

There appears to be some confusion as to what a vaccine does, as opposed to antiviral treatment for COVID-19.  Ekurhuleni mayor, Mzwandile Masina, recently proposed using the municipality’s emergency funds “to procure the vaccine Inferon B from Cuba”, a proposal debunked by Africa Check.

The possibility that South Africa will also receive an actual trial vaccine is a big deal, not because we are likely to become lab rats, but because citizens will hopefully be able to volunteer for the phase 1 trials to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine in creating antibodies to the virus — a therapy which could prove to be a game-changer in the global pandemic.

As with any new drug or therapy, there will always be safety concerns, but the alternative is to live with permanent lock-downs and quarantines.

I would rather just get a jab in the arm thanks.

COVID-19: Our People’s Health is an Environmental Issue

SOUTH AFRICA is one of the few countries to have secured the right to a healthy environment alongside the right to health in its constitution, yet it took the crisis of a global pandemic for apartheid-era hostels in Alexander township to be deep cleaned. As our own Department of Health moved to contain the spread of COVID-19, questions were being raised as to why the Minister had waited so long, and why had the Department of Health (DOH) not acted with similar vigour during previous TB and Pneumonia epidemics?

As the nation went into lock-down, many found cause to question the apartheid spatial planning which meant that black South Africans were disproportionately affected by problems related to access to food, lack of water, sanitation and ablution facilities. As one mother put it, ‘Our family share a single tap with four other households, social distancing is problematic for us.’ While most white folk were hunkering down in luxury apartment blocks, the poor were being relegated to townships and informal settlements where little has changed during the democratic period.

The cause is a virus which many scientists believe has come to the fore because of the same underlying factors effecting climate change.

“The interconnectedness of our globalised world facilitated the spread of COVID-19. The disruption this continues to cause has made evident societal dependence on global production systems,” says Vijay Kolinjivadi, a  post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Development Policy at the University of Antwerp.

He observes a disjuncture in our response to the double crisis: “Although both COVID-19 and climate change are rooted in the same abusive economic behaviour and both have proven to be deadly for humans, governments have seen them as separate and unconnected phenomena and have therefore responded rather differently to them.”

“While we do not get daily updates on the death toll caused by climate change, as we do with COVID-19, it is much deadlier than the virus.”

Although a lot has been made about animal rights and the beneficial decrease in pollution caused by the pandemic, the result of what Kolinjivi sees as a ‘positive degrowth’. Now is not the time for complacency on air standards, emissions and climate change.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland writing with Daya Reddy, President of the International Science Council, says: “The COVID-19 threat has shown that governments can act swiftly and resolutely in a crisis, and that people are ready to change their behavior for the good of humanity. The world must now urgently adopt the same approach to the existential challenge of climate change.”

In South Africa the ruling party has instead utilised the pandemic as an opportunity to escape commitments made during successive UN Conference of the Parties (COP) rounds. Readers awoke last week to find that Gwede Mantashe, had published new amendments to the Mineral Resources Development Act (MPRDA) on the first day of the Covid-19 emergency lockdown in order to escape accountability, while air pollution standards had been gutted, enabling Eskom and SASOL to double sulphur emissions.

There is palpable fear amongst activists, that in focusing on the pandemic, the nation will lose its impetus on climate change alongside its civil liberties.

“The disruption brought on by Covid-19 could reverse efforts made by governments thus far to reduce carbon emissions to tackle the climate crisis. What is needed is a way to connect the two calamities to capacitate a sustainable revival in the aftermath” writes Luveshni Odayar, a Machel-Mandela Fellow at The Brenthurst Foundation.

It is therefore imperative that we view public health (literally the people’s health) as an environmental issue, in the same way that apartheid was linked to the struggle for environmental justice by myself and others, back in the 1980s.

In fact the two health struggles, that of the public in general (and body in particular), and that of the environment at large, are so closely interlinked and intertwined, that they cannot be seen as distant relatives.

The result must be an expanded concept of health and health-care-for-all, and thus a public policy which encompasses physical well-being as much as it does the Earth. That it has taken a virus to make us all aware of this deep connection, can only be seen as one of the positive lessons to be drawn from the crisis.

Our recovery and future is dependent upon making this realisation a reality, and thus a yardstick which motivates and drives our country.

Mr President, we’re not officially at “War”

THE DEPLOYMENT of SANDF military personnel in support of SAPS enforcement of an unprecedented ‘lockdown’ in terms of the Disaster Management Act and National Health Act has resulted in at least three deaths, and countless examples of brutality and ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ reminiscent of the apartheid era.

The new regulations gazetted in terms of the legislation, and which appear to reference the colonial 1919 Public Health Act, may also turn out to be unlawful, as too the many contraventions of South Africa’s Bill of Rights.

The Disaster Management Act was drafted primarily to deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and floods, and does not grant the President the kind of powers contemplated by the latest round of executive policy-making decisions.

Similarly, the National Health Act is focused on providing health care for all, and does not contain any reference to the Public Health Act written during a period in which black South Africans were deprived of property rights and other rights such as habeous corpus.

The past days stream of online visuals of combined law enforcement officials invading citizen’s homes without search warrants, shambokking residents on private property, pointing shotguns at civilians queuing for food, affecting arbitrary arrests of civilians, and in some instances, forcing South Africans as well as migrants, to do humiliating squats, brutally knocking others to the ground, rolling them on the streets and pavements, are all brutish acts calculated to force compliance with the latest rounds of regulations. As such, they deserve greater scrutiny from both our government and opposition parties.

To date, the official opposition DA has merely written a letter calling for military investigation into the incidents whilst parliament is in recess. Minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has meekly cautioned members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) against their heavy-handedness during the lockdown.

With all the talk of war South Africans could be forgiven for thinking that the nation had officially declared war against the virus. Unfortunately we are in uncharted terrain so far as this is concerned, and Parliament has yet to pass a War Powers Act which would be required to allow President Ramaphosa to act as a war-time president.

At the start, the President acknowledged that the 15 March, Declaration of a National Disaster was one step away from the so-called national lockdown and a long way away from a State of Emergency. The shelter-in-place directive is unprecedented in modern times, but clearly necessary from a public health perspective. Law enforcement officials however seem to be a little overzealous in jumping the gun when it comes to the State of Emergency and special War Powers that would be needed to drive a command economy under military supervision.

Goods deemed non-essential, and therefore currently restricted from sale, quixotically include vegetable seed, general hardware, and cleaning equipment such as brooms.

Though generally muted by the past weeks events, our courts are still operating and functioning under special rules, and to my knowledge, the rule of law has not yet been suspended. It is unclear how citizens are expected to access legal aid during a lockdown.

Nevertheless Magistrates were quick to roll out summary fines of up to R5000 for contraventions of the new regulations, the magnitude of which will take some time to circulate within our communities. Legal professionals were generally silent or bunkered down, but eager to offer advice on the drafting of wills. Did we scrap the Audi rule alongside the National Environmental Management Act in the process?

We can only hope that the President supplies us with a timeline to the resumption of normality and that attempts to get ahead of the crisis will not come at the further expense of human rights.

The lockdown may be extended indefinitely, as in many other countries.

Tension over who’s boss of courts

South Africa’s controversial Chloroquine Phosphate adoption

WHY ANYONE would prescribe a substance such as Chloroquine Phosphate for the treatment of Covid-19 is a mystery. For starters the anti-malaria drug is an amebicide, ‘an agent used in the treatment of amoebozoa infections, called amoebiasis’ and is not an anti-viral as such.

It has a low LD50, the lethal dose at which rats and patients die (low is more toxic). It has been touted by both the Trump administration and the World Health Organisation as a treatment for the disease but has been lambasted by critics. Chloroquine: Trump’s misleading claims spark hoarding and overdoses reads one headline.

On the March 19, South Africa adopted Chloroquine Phosphate in its guidelines for the clinical management of Covid-19, published by the Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. A local pharmaceutical company has received permission from the medical regulator to import half a million chloroquine phosphate tablets.

New research published on Wednesday however, ‘suggested that “off label” re-purposing of drugs such as hydroxychloroquine could lead to “drug-induced sudden cardiac death”. The paper by the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical organisation, found that ‘chloroquine and Kaletra, a HIV drug also being used against coronavirus, can cause the heart muscle to take longer than normal to recharge between beats.’

Most RNA viruses develop solely in cytoplasm (a thick solution that fills each cell and is enclosed by the cell membrane.) Unlike plasmodium malaria (amoebozoa ) viral populations do not grow through cell division, because they are acellular.

Coronaviruses are enveloped positive-stranded RNA viruses that replicate in the cytoplasm.

‘To deliver their nucleocapsid into the host cell, they rely on the fusion of their envelope with the host cell membrane. The spike glycoprotein (S) mediates virus entry and is a primary determinant of cell tropism and pathogenesis.’

There are over 100 known drug compounds capable of disrupting the viral replication of Sars-CoV-2, the coronovirus responsible for COVID-19. These substances have been located via an unprecedented bioinformatics search by two groups of scientists working round-the-clock on the equivalent of the Manhattan Project.

Their findings were published less than three weeks apart and must be considered required reading by anyone working in the field of coronovirus medicine. Unfortunately due to politics surrounding branded drugs and the Trump administration, and the machinations of the World Health Organisation, and our own government, these findings are being ignored.

Local use of the drug appears to pre-empt a WHO trial already underway in Norway and Spain.

Although Chloroquine Phosphate, ‘the phosphate salt of chloroquine, a quinoline a compound with antimalarial and anti-inflammatory properties’ appears on one of the lists provided by the researchers, the substance is not recommended by doctors as anything more than a last resort.

The chief executive of Novartis cautioned on Friday that it is “too soon” to be sure whether the anti-malaria drugs could be a definitive treatment for the coronavirus.

“Researchers have tried this drug on virus after virus, and it never works out in humans. The dose needed is just too high,” says Susanne Herold, an expert on pulmonary infections at the University of Giessen,

The latest list of potential coronovirus drugs discovered via an unprecedented bioinformatics search, include many compounds already approved for administering by doctors, some are already in preclinical trials. Among them is a 1971 antiviral drug, Ribavirin capable of disrupting the RNA synthesis of the coronovirus itself, the bug responsible for the biggest health crisis event of the 21st Century.

The drug is described in a paper aptly entitled ‘Broad-spectrum coronavirus antiviral drug discovery‘. It escaped media attention, perhaps due to its patent rights lapsing, while Lopinavir–Ritonavir, a relatively new HIV drug has received a lot of press, alongside Favivlavr a drug from China approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China .  Clinical trials of a promising COVID-19 antiviral, Remdesivir, which gets incorporated into viral RNA and prevents it being synthesised, halting viral replication, are currently underway.

Ribavirin, also known as tribavirin, is an antiviral medication used to treat RSV infectionhepatitis C and some viral hemorrhagic fevers.

A team lead by Nevan Krogan of the Gladstone Institute, working around the clock have identified more than 300 human proteins that interact with SARS-CoV-2 during infection.

Since the Trump announcement there has been attempts to classify coronovirus medicine research and restrict any adverse criticism of Chloroquine, with EPA announcing broad restrictions.

Efforts to raise awareness amongst local organisers of a Peninsula community coronovirus response team were instead met with ridicule, and the writer threatened with prosecution. The lack of debate amongst local authorities is reminiscent of the HIV-denial era, since anyone publishing coronovirus information ‘not authorised by the DOH ‘ may run foul of recently gazetted regulations governing the spread of information.

It is safe to say when this epidemic broke, we were dealing with denialists who refused to believe there was an epidemic. Overnight, these same folk have turned into gatekeepers of what can and cannot be said. Now even government officials are denying there are any antiviral treatments capable of bringing down the epidemic to manageable proportions and urging us all to use Chloroquine  the most widely used drug against malaria.

The safety issues here are also reminiscent of the thalidomide disaster,  one of the darkest episodes in pharmaceutical research history

Although the mechanism of action is not fully understood, chloroquine has been shown to inhibit the parasitic enzyme heme polymerase that converts the toxic heme into non-toxic hemazoin, thereby resulting in the accumulation of toxic heme within the parasite.

Chloroquine may also interfere with the biosynthesis of nucleic acids. However the coronovirus is not a microbial parasite and more research on the use of the substance in symptomatic treatment of a condition associated with an RNA virus would be required.

The most important lesson of the 1918 influenza pandemic: Tell the damn truth

10 Days into the ‘National Disaster’, and South Africa continues to bungle its response to the crisis

AS THE COUNTRY prepares for what appears to be an unprecedented lock-down, following the declaration of a national disaster over a week ago, the authorities continue to bungle the epidemic.

Granted a lot has changed since we reported on the failure to close borders to European red zones, our obsession with Wuhan repatriation, and the problematic roll-out of posters with a case definition which excluded the possibility of community transmission.

Since then, our President announced broad-ranging and sweeping measures to contain the spread of the virus, including the shutting of ports and harbours, limitations on groups of more than 100 individuals, the introduction of a drinking curfew and other draconian measures, none of which tackle the central problem that this is a singlestranded, positive-sense RNA virus which hijacks the body in order to synthesise the proteins required to reproduce itself.

Instead of announcing a colloquium or symposium to collect the prevailing scientific and evidence-based research needed to make informed decisions, our government has simply launched the country into a series of drastic actions and interventions via presidential decree, albeit informed by World Health Organisation officials in Geneva.

One action announced on Monday is an unprecedented shelter-in-place directive, in other words a national lock-down, which will require all citizens except those in exempt categories, to stay home for 21 days.  A similar order during the epidemic in Wuhan, essentially voluntary self-quarantining, and also currently in the USA, and elsewhere, has had limited success, and will in all likelihood fail.

The measure to use the parlance of the WHO ‘merely buys time‘.

To put this another way, if we simply suppress the virus, it will just come back once we end our lock-down, and the exponential spike we are all hoping to avoid now, will come back in May or July, especially since the virus is more active during Winter.

Public health officials hope that these steps will act to ‘flatten the curve’, but as this video shows, doing so at the wrong time, may risk the situation where the other half of the population will still go on to get the illness.

We can’t go into another lockdown after this one, and the sheer impact upon the economy is causing reverberations and jitters around the continent. While a raft of measures were announced to mitigate the impact on sectors such as the Hospitality industry, the sheer numbers of people affected make life incredibly difficult for scenario planners.

So what are we not doing that we should be doing?

Avoiding crude measures such as mass quarantines and instead relying upon big data as Taiwan and Singapore have done, to manage the spread of the virus, is certainly more preferable.

Creating acceptable risks by rapidly introducing antiviral treatments which act to reduce viral production within the body and thereby infection, transmission and mortality is another option of managing the problem. (To date over a 100 compounds have been identified by computational methods, a veritable Manhattan Project).

Realising that we have an incredible advantage when it comes to data processing that previous generations and pandemics lacked is crucial to the outcome of the crisis.

Cutting the red-tape that prevents the repurposing and redeployment of antiviral medication to fight the virus is going to determine whether or not we win this one.

It is unthinkable that we live in an age of germ-destroying ‘disinfection robots’, artificial intelligence and the sudden re-emergence of the cordon sanitaire, long considered a throwback to the Middle Ages.

Extending force magnification measures already in place such as tele-medicine to virtual visits during the epidemic could assist an overstretched public health system in reaching out to patients in the absence of transport.

Extending drone delivery of blood samples to delivery of medication and home diagnostic kits also could save lives.

Correcting mistakes with health communication by acknowledging the evolving symptoms and vectors of the epidemic as the City of Cape Town has done, is just a start.

So too would be correcting the comparison often made here with the flu.

The Coronovirus is related to the common cold, in essence a Zoonotic Cold or Respiratory Illness from Bats and Pangolins, and has struck down normally healthy youngsters who form some 10% of those in ICU, as well as the aged.

The reason why some people end up in ICU with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) while others get away with mild symptoms is not well understood and may have something to do with previous exposure to coronoviruses and the presence or absence of antibodies.

In the near absence of universal testing, (SA will only able to do 30 000 tests a day by mid April) temperature screening of fever suspects at public gatherings, might eliminate super-spreaders, and also buy us more time. Enough time until we are able to roll-out a universal vaccine and immunisation campaign.

A jab in the arm is far preferable to living in conditions that resemble ancient times.

To date, South Africa has yet to announce a local vaccine candidate or drug trial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are 69 potential Antiviral drug treatments as the Coronovirus rips up South Africa

HERE are 69 possible antiviral drug treatments for the Coronovirus. Some of them repurpose old drugs, others involve new combinations, and are already in use for a range of diseases, including Parkinsons, Cancer and HIV. Some drugs have already been approved for administering by doctors, some are already in preclinical trials. Among them is a 1971 antiviral drug, Ribavirin capable of disrupting the RNA synthesis of the coronovirus itself, the bug responsible for the biggest health crisis event of the 21st Century.

The drug is described in a paper aptly entitled ‘Broad-spectrum coronavirus antiviral drug discovery‘. It escaped media attention, perhaps due to its patent rights lapsing, while Lopinavir–Ritonavir, a relatively new HIV drug received a lot of press, alongside Favivlavr a drug from China approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China .

It appears a massive search using the latest information technology and supercomputers was conducted.

A group of scientists including ‘Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics’ experts has raced to make the discovery as New York hits an epidemic spike that looks set to require at least 30 000 extra respirators, countless more hospital beds, and the construction of makeshift morgues. The City is currently in a state of emergency.

South Africa is about to enter a national lockdown from midnight Thursday.

The latest research dovetails a paper published on 27 February by Micholas Smith, Jeremy C. Smith on ‘Repurposing Therapeutics for COVID-19: Supercomputer-Based Docking to the SARS-CoV-2 Viral Spike Protein and Viral Spike Protein-Human ACE2 Interface.’

The newer paper was published on 22 March 2020 and should have made headline news, if only NYC wasn’t at the centre of the epidemic.

The list includes Chloroquine, a controversial anti-malaria drug with a low Lethal Dose 50 (LD50), a measure of toxicity, where low is more toxic. The drug has been touted by Donald Trump, but has not been approved by the FDA for use, and also Haloperidol, a drug used to treat so-called Schizophrenia.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a global megatrial of what it claims are ‘the four most promising coronavirus treatments’

Scientists in Iceland have found 40 mutations of the coronavirus among people with the deadly bug in the country. A previous study conducted in China and published early this month indicates that two separate types of the novel coronavirus — one more aggressive than the other — had been infecting people since the start of the outbreak.

According to a WHO official ‘Ten percent of the people who are in [intensive care units] in Italy are in their 20s, 30s or 40s. These are young, healthy people with no co-morbidities, no other diseases.’

HERE IS THE LIST OF 69:

JQ1105; RVX-208; Silmitasertib1; TMCB; Apicidin1; Valproic Acid1; Bafilomycin A11; E-52862; PD-144418; RS-PPCC; PB281; Haloperidol; Indomethacin; Metformin1; Ponatinib; H-89; Merimepodib1; Migalastat1; Mycophenolic acid12; Ribavirin; XL4131; CCT 36562312; Midostaurin13; Ruxolitinib1; ZINC17759623671; ZINC432671913; ZINC4511851; ZINC95559591; AC-555411; AZ8838; Daunorubicin1; GB110; S-verapamil; AZ3451; ABBV-744; dBET6; MZ1; CPI-0610; Sapanisertib; Rapamycin; Zotatifin; Verdinexor; Chloroquine; Dabrafenib; WDB002; Sanglifehrin; AFK-506; Pevonedistat; Ternatin 4; 4E2RCat; Tomivosert; Compound 2; Compound 10; PS30613; IHVR-190291; Captopril1; Lisinopril1; Camostat; Nafamostat; Chloramphenicol; Tigecycline; Linezolid1

FIRST LIST IDENTIFIED BY SUPERCOMPUTER

pemirolast -7.4 ZINC5783214 benserazide -7.4 ZINC3830273 Natural Product: luteolin-monoarabinoside -7.4 ZINC18185774 pyruvic acid calcium isoniazid -7.3 ZINC4974291 Natural Product: quercetol;quercitin -7.3 ZINC3869685 protirelin -7.3 ZINC4096261 carbazochrome -7.2 ZINC100029428 nitrofurantoin -7.2 ZINC3875368 benserazide -7.2 ZINC3830273 carbazochrome -7.1 ZINC100045148 sapropterin -7.1 ZINC13585233 Vidarabine -7.1 ZINC970363 Natural Product: eriodictyol -7.1 ZINC58117 tazobactum -7.1 ZINC3787060 phenformin hcl -7 ZINC5851063 carbazochrome -7 ZINC100045148 carbazochrome -7 ZINC100045148 vildagliptin -7 ZINC100003507 Natural product: demethyl-coclaurine