Covid-19 Facts: Surviving the Covid-19 ‘Immunity’ Disaster

1. What is SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19?

“Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” is the name of the new virus according to the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). “COVID-19” is the name of the new disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

This means it is related to the coronovirus responsible for the 2003 SARS epidemic. ‘Based on phylogeny, taxonomy and established practice, the CSG recognizes this virus as forming a sister clade to the prototype human and bat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs) of the species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus, and designates it as SARS-CoV-2.’

2. What are the Symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the WHO: fever (in 88% of cases), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%) and sputum/phlegm production (33%). Shortness of breath occurred in nearly 20% of cases, and about 13% had a sore throat or headache, the WHO said in a report drawing on more than 70,000 cases in China.

3. How Infectious is SARS-CoV-2?

Covid-19 is more infectious and contagious than previously assumed. R0 value is likely to be between 4.7 and 6.6., and not 2.2 to 2.7 as previously reported. This places it in the realm of Smallpox which has an R0 of 5–7.

It can survive for up to 3 days+ on surfaces and remain airborne for hours.

It is most infectious during incubation, and first week of symptoms and less infectious during post-symptomatic recovery period. Incubation period averages 5.1 days.

It follows that since SARS-CoV-2 is related to the SARS 2003 virus, the same protocols should apply, ‘avoid direct contact with respiratory secretions or body fluids.’

Note: It is well worth reading up on predecessor SARS 1

Can We Learn Anything from the SARS Outbreak to Fight COVID-19?

The problem is that since the coronovirus is a new pathogen, we do not possess natural immunity. South Africans will eventually gain ‘herd immunity’ which is ‘the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination’.

4. How many South Africans are likely to catch COVID-19?

If one uses Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel’s estimates that 40%-60% of the population will invariably be infected: South Africa with a population of 56+ million must plan for some 22 400 000 to 33 600 000 cases of which 1 904 000 will be critical according to WHO average mortality rate of 3.4. This makes it a major problem for the public health system. See Coronavirus: Simple statistical predictions for South Africa

Luckily we have a relatively young population. Age of a population is a factor in mortality rate.

5. How many hospital beds does South Africa have?

There are currently some 80 000 beds in the public health system, and 5000 beds in the private health care system according to MOH Dr Zweli Mkhize today. This means a potential shortfall of 1 819 000 beds. Nationally, there is only 1 hospital, 187 hospital beds and 42 surgical beds per 100 000 population.

6. Which groups are most at risk from SARS-CoV-2?

Most reports suggest that the elderly, infirm and those already possessing co-morbidity, i.e underlying disease such as HIV, Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease are particularly at risk from falling critically ill from the disease.

COVID-19 update: What you need to know now that it’s officially a pandemic

7. Why should I be concerned about SARS-CoV-2 & COVID-19?

Patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection are presenting with a wide range of symptoms. Most patients seem to have mild disease, and about 20% appear to progress to severe disease, including pneumonia, respiratory failure, and, in some cases, even death, according to the Lancet.

Coronavirus turns deadly when it leads to ‘cytokine storm’; identifying this immune response is key to patient’s survival

Since COVID-19 may also reduce lung function, opportunistic infection from Pneumococcus, Streptococcus and Mycobacterium Tuberculosis within the South African context may also be inferred. This presents a substantial and heretofore under-reported risk.

Unless we think globally and act locally to contain and prevent transmission, new waves of the pandemic are likely to hit the sub-continent.

8. What can I do to prevent transmission?

Social distancing, avoiding large crowds, hand-washing, the Covid “handshake” and sneezing into ones elbow are all behavioural changes suggested by our MOH.

Providing hand-sanitation stations at Taxi ranks, Metro-Rail and public venues is another suggestion, so too providing UV lights and/or latex gloves and hand sanitiser to those who deal with money at checkouts, and also pump jockeys at Petrol Stations.

Disinfection of Public Transport and Taxis should be prioritised!

Predecessor SARS 1 showed sensitivity to UV light, renders inactive.

Traditional burning of Imphepho or African Sage may assist poor households in removing bacteria and viruses from the air, as inferred from Journal of Ethnopharmacology, since havan samagri has the potential to kill 94% of bacteria.

9. Is there a cure?

Treatment is currently symptomatic. Several treatment therapies have been advanced, including the use of chloroquine phosphate to treat fever, antivirals such as protease inhibitors to treat viral reproduction and other therapies. Anecdotal evidence suggests that codeine and ibuprofen exacerbates the fever and should not be taken without doctor supervision. Favipiravir, a Japanese flu drug has also proven effective.

Covid-19: ibuprofen should not be used for managing symptoms, say doctors and scientists

See Could an old malaria drug help fight the new coronavirus?

Warnings issued on lethal dose of Chloroquine 

Nvidia is calling on gaming PC owners to put their systems to work fighting COVID-19 by assisting projects already  ‘simulating potentially druggable protein targets from SARS-CoV-2

Avoid Coronophobia, the fear of Coronoviruses killing you. Rational thinking rather than fear, panic and denial is the key here.

10. Can I test for SARS-CoV-2?

Yes, currently the only tests available are via pathology labs, designated public hospitals such as Tygerberg and the private health system and cost anywhere between R1400 to R900. Local tests have a 48 hour turnaround. This is a significant downside to an otherwise excellent disaster plan. Singapore for instance has rolled out a four-hour turnaround swab-test at entry points, while Senegal is working on a 10-minute PCR test.

Demand better screening, lowering of threshold of surveillance and access to free testing.

11. Is there a Vaccine?

South Africa has no candidate vaccine at this time.

See: How can AI help biotech companies seeking vaccines?

Passive antibody therapy, an Antibody Method from the 1890s is being used to provide stop-gap immunity.

A Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle.

Immunisation will take time, we need to be vigilant and patient until then.

Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus Vaccines

12. Which borders are closed?

A travel ban has been enforced on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. There is currently no word on Japan,  Spain and other places of concern.

13. How will this effect the global economy?

In 2004 Jong-Wha Lee and Warwick J. McKibbin in ‘Estimating the Global Economic Costs of SARS’ published in ‘Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak‘ produced a global model to simulate the economic impact of a long-term SARS epidemic using the period 2002–2081. The so-called ‘G-Cubed (Asia-Pacific) model’ is eerie and prescient in its description. I reproduce it here:

First, fear of SARS infection leads to a substantial decline in consumer demand, especially for travel and retail sales service. The fast speed of contagion makes people avoid social interactions in affected regions. The adverse demand shock becomes more substantial in regions that have much larger service-related activities and higher population densities, such as Hong Kong or Beijing, China. The psychological shock also ripples around the world, not just to the countries of local transmission of SARS, because the world is so closely linked by international travel. Second, the uncertain features of the disease reduce confidence in the future of the affected economies. This effect seems to be potentially very important, particularly as the shock reverberates through China, which has been a key center of foreign investment. The response by the Chinese government to the epidemic was fragmented and nontransparent. The greater exposure to an unknown disease and the less effective government responses to the disease outbreaks must have elevated concerns about China’s institutional quality and future growth potential. Although it is difficult to measure directly the effects of diseases on decision making by foreign investors, the loss of foreign investors’ confidence would have potentially tremendous impacts on foreign investment flows, which would in turn have significant impacts on China’s economic growth. This effect is also transmitted to other countries competing with China for foreign direct investment (FDI). Third, SARS undoubtedly increases the costs of disease prevention, especially in the most affected industries such as the travel and retail sales service industries. This cost may not be substantial, at least in global terms, as long as the disease is transmitted only by close human contact. However, the global cost could become enormous if the disease is found to be transmitted by other channels such as through international cargo.

14. How will this effect the local economy?

Our economy is so intertwined with the rest of the world that the impact is bound to last for a very long time. In the meantime, think about the benefits and opportunities of buying local, sharing with your neighbour, lending a hand and being prepared. Household responsibility dictates that it is up to individual households at the end of the day to provide for oursselves and to figure out how best to move the economy forward.

Singapore’s Portable Covid-19 Swab Test

A NEW SWAB TEST  test for the COVID-19 infection has been implemented at checkpoints in Singapore.

The National Development Minister said the new swab test extends testing to lower-risk symptomatic travellers as an added precautionary measure. All land, sea and air checkpoints currently conduct temperature screening on travellers.

“We are putting this in place precisely because…we want to have a mechanism in order to detect and identify upstream early on,” said Wong.

After undergoing the swab test, travellers will be allowed to continue with their journey. Each test outcome will take three to six hours, and individuals will then be contacted on their results. Those with positive results will be conveyed to hospital via ambulance.

Wong acknowledged that the swab tests would require more manpower but stated that it was important, “not least because beyond…the known infected sources, we don’t know whether the virus may be coming in from other sources”.

Those who refuse the swab test may face sanctions. Short-term visitors who refuse the test will be barred from entry into the country. Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders who refuse testing may have their immigration facilities or work pass privileges revoked or their validity shortened.

Travellers, including Singaporeans, who do not comply with the testing or who are uncontactable later may be penalised or prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act.

SINGAPORE-based Veredus Laboratories, a provider of innovative molecular diagnostic solutions, recently announced the development of VereCoV detection kit, a portable Lab-on-Chip application capable of detecting the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) i.e. Wuhan Coronavirus, in a single test.

The VereCoV detection Kit is based on the VereChip technology, a Lab-on-Chip platform integrating two powerful molecular biological applications, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and microarray, that will be able to identify and differentiate MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and 2019-nCoV with high specificity and sensitivity.

WHY IT MATTERS

The Wuhan Coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, Central China, was initially identified during mid-December 2019. The outbreak was linked primarily to stallholders who worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which also sold live animals. Chinese scientists found that the 2019-nCoV is at least 70% similar in genome sequence to SARS-CoV.

According to latest reports on the first day of the Lunar New Year (25th January), authorities have reported 15 new deaths in Wuhan, including a medical professional in his 60s, bringing the death toll in China to 41. The virus has also been detected in the US, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Nepal.

A recent article by The Business Times reported that the VereCoV detection kit was expected to be commercially available from Feb 1 this year.

ON THE RECORD

“Given the high transmission rates of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, it is inevitable that the 2019-nCoV could possibly result in high incidences of transmission. There are similarities in genetic make-up between these Coronaviruses, however gene mutations in the 2019-nCoV are largely responsible for recent outbreak cases. It is therefore critical for our multiplexing assay to provide wide genetic coverage to detect and differentiate these Coronaviruses, particularly to identify 2019- nCoV for appropriate mitigation actions, if necessary,” said Dr Sato Mitsuharu, R&D Director of Veredus in a statement.

Dr Rosemary Tan, CEO of Veredus Laboratories added, “This VereCoV detection kit will be one of the first commercially available kits in the world with the capability to detect, differentiate and identify all 3 Coronaviruses in a single test in about 2 hours. Time-to-market is crucial as it addresses the need for a fast and easy-to-use detection method. This is something we are confident of as we have previously updated our VereFlu Influenza A/B detection kit and VereMERS detection kit to include the then newly emergent pandemic strain H1N1/2009 and MERS-CoV, respectively within few weeks from time of first outbreak.”

How SA bungled the Covid epidemic and looks set to repeat the mistakes of the Spanish flu

INSTEAD of focusing efforts at containment, the country was transfixed by what President Ramaphosa described as an `exercise to carry the pride and hope of the nation`. Instead of closing borders to the new epicentres of Italy and Spain, the country was welcoming travellers, without so much as a Covid-free certificate. No quarantines for incoming tourists from Spain, Italy or Hong Kong for that matter. Our national effort focused on the plight of less than 150 citizens living in Wuhan. In the process the ruling party sacrificed a massive opportunity to contain Covid-19 until a vaccine could be found.

Our efforts at containment are too little, too late, and will in all likelihood cost the lives of some 3 million citizens once the epidemic is over.

Airport screening is largely futile, research shows. 

Singapore’s MOH has expanded the definition of suspect cases to include ‘persons with pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness.’ The country has rolled out a new portble swab test at checkpoints.

Meanwhile in the Cape Metro, our Health MEC issued guidelines that excluded the possibility of Community Infection.  A poster issued by the City 11 March directs persons with Covid-19 symptoms to seek assistance ONLY if they have travelled overseas or have come into contact with a person already diagnosed with Covid-19.  Achieving what other countries could not with a stroke of pen.

The same posters were then translated into several of our national languages with better graphics and type and rolled out this week, in a total waste of resources.

Instead of lowering the threshold of surveillance, MEC Nomafrensch Mbombo raised the bar, excluding assistance to anyone who may have gotten an infection from a traveller or tourist. A public health policy which merely feeds into a testing system overly dependent upon private pathology labs, and where Covid test costs are anywhere R1400 – R900.

It is a policy which appears to also have originated from the previous SARS epidemic in which no tests nor vaccines were available, and where case definitions relied upon excluding various symptoms in the absence of treatment modalities.

Senegal a country with experience  from recent Ebola epidemic, is able to produce 10 minute tests which cost R16.50

Massive testing has been a key factor of successful combat of the epidemic in South Korea and Canada. The linchpin of South Korea’s response has been a testing programme that has screened more people per capita for the virus than any other country by far. ‘By carrying out up to 15,000 tests per day, health officials have been able to screen some 250,000 people – about one in every 200 South Koreans – since January’.

Australia has issued an order directing new arrivals to the country to self-quarantine for 14 days as has Canada and New Zealand.

Independent reports of citizens using the national toll free number, confirm that no Covid assistance will be forthcoming to anyone who suspects community transmission. A report of the country’s first confirmed community transmission in the Free State was withdrawn last week, apparently the result of ‘misinterpretation’.

After dithering on the issue of testing the Trump administration announced sweeping reforms on Friday which included free testing for all citizens, a policy already mandated by congress. The declaration of a state of emergency in the USA has also paved the way for pharmaceutical company Roche to access federal emergency funding for a massive rollout of SARS-CoV-2 Test to detect novel coronavirus.

If one uses German Chancellor Merkel’s estimates that 40%-60% of the population will invariably be infected: South Africa with a population of 52 million must plan for some 20 800 000 to 31 200 000 cases of which 1.8 – 3.4 % will be critical. In other words we stand to lose 561 600 to 1 060 800 and 374 400 to 707 200 people during the course of the epidemic.

Extrapolating stats from the North presents certain difficulties, the least of which is our country has many informal settlements and an under-resourced public health system. The figures therefore need to be corrected by a factor of 3 — we could end up shedding anywhere between 1 200 000 and 3 million people if critical cases do not receive treatment.

Editorial note: Readers please refrain from comparing raw exponential data surrounding an evolving epidemic to events which are static, and without same variance like annual mortality rate for car accidents, since according to statistician, NN Taleb, ‘this introduces a flaw in standard statistics’.

A local epidemiologist Jody Boffa, says she suspects ‘that once COVID-19 is more established in South Africa, the numbers of people requiring hospitalisation for pneumonia and other severe complications will be higher than 1.7 to 4 million if we do not take preventive steps now because of specific health issues in our population that affect the immune system of younger populations as well; specifically HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malnutrition.’

A guide on ‘Interpreting and using mortality data in humanitarian emergencies’ cautions on the imprecision inherent to all epidemiological models but nevertheless insists such impact data ‘should be used to drive policy decisions’.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has issued a statement calling on the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to institute a mandatory self-quarantine period of 14 days for all travelers from high-risk European countries whether the person is symptomatic or not. The party could not explain why the City’s own Covid-19 programme excluded those who have not travelled overseas or have not come into contact with a person already diagnosed with Covid-19.

During the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic South Africa was one of the five worst-hit parts of the world. About 300,000 South Africans died within six weeks. This represented 6% of the entire population.

In 1918, the city of Philadelphia threw a parade that killed thousands of people. Ignoring warnings of influenza among soldiers preparing for World War I, the march to support the war effort drew 200,000 people who crammed together to watch the procession. ‘Three days later, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled with sick and dying patients, infected by the Spanish flu.’

The UK has announced a preventive quarantine programme for the elderly as well as other measures to combat the fast-moving epidemic.

Covid-19 is more infectious and contagious than previously assumed. R0 value is likely to be between 4.7 and 6.6., and not 2.2 to 2.7 as previously reported.

Coronavirus turns deadly when it leads to ‘cytokine storm’; identifying this immune response is key to patient’s survival

The most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the WHO: fever (in 88% of cases), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%) and sputum/phlegm production (33%). Shortness of breath occurred in nearly 20% of cases, and about 13% had a sore throat or headache, the WHO said in a report drawing on more than 70,000 cases in China.

Veredus Laboratories has announced development of detection kit for Wuhan Coronavirus. 

The credit card sized kit is a portable Lab-on-Chip application capable of ‘detecting the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) i.e. Wuhan Coronavirus, in a single test’ in about 2 hours.

See Covid Simulator

Covid-19 – Do we trust a health administration that keeps getting its decimals and policies in the wrong place?

UPDATED 14/03/2020

HEALTH SOUTH AFRICA’S inability to detect a Covid–19 patient incoming from a red zone (Italy) is cause for alarm. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize characterisation of so-called ‘patient zero’ as ‘no big deal’ amidst a rush to give South Africa the ‘all clear’, the failure of his department to pre-empt and stall the arrival of the country’s first patient, is most definitely A BIG DEAL.

Unlike South Africa, Senegalese scientists are on the forefront of testing. In partnership with the UK-based Mologic, scientists at Dakar’s Pasteur Institute are helping to develop a handheld coronavirus test kit that could diagnose COVID-19 within 10 minutes.  Lab-on-a-Chip PCR testing exists today, and can detect Covid-19 incubation within 10 minutes. An industry journal describes the method for creating PCR tests on ‘microfluidic devices’.

It is abundantly obvious that our Dept of Health (DOH) lacks the technology to test for Covid-19 during the 5.1 day incubation period and that Dr Mkhize has absolutely no idea how to go about treating patients other than via self-quarantine. There are currently no plans it seems, to acquire portable PCR Kits for all South Africans. The PCR acronym is short for Polymerase Chain Reaction, the method by which a very small sample of DNA can be amplified to an amount sufficient to study in detail.

Given South Africa’s previous experience with the HIV pandemic, it is particularly galling that our own science sector appears to not have received any previous funding to produce portable PCR–testing and the dept of Health is unable to provide any answers to the problem of incubation detection, other than to reiterate that pathology labs exist and stock-outs have occurred with PPE.

It appears incoming arrivals are being tested purely on the basis of a symptomatic case-definition which includes high temperatures and ignores the incubation period.

Remarkably, in media briefings reminiscent of the HIV-denial era, Dr Mkize disingenuously claimed over the weekend, ‘there is nothing overly infectious’ about Covid-19, and South Africans are thus in ‘no immediate danger’ from the pathogen. This viewpoint gained support from ‘religious leaders’, as the Minister of Health (MOH) announced the so-called patient zero had been miraculously cured, Sunday, after being admitted on Thursday.

Nevertheless, an event which had necessitated the activation of ‘tracer-teams’ to locate other members of a group of 10 who had visited Italy.

Sending patient zero back home may be premature, given the likelihood of reinfection.

Several persons related to the group of South Africans who traveled to Italy was also found to have the Covid-19 virus. A school was closed down yesterday, due to an educators ‘close proximity to a positive Covid-19 patient’. The DOH meanwhile called for calm, but stopped short of calling the closure, ‘irresponsible’.

Reports of the country‘s first ‘community transmission‘ in the Free State yesterday were retracted by the DOH. There are currently 16 confirmed cases,

Instead of announcing stringent testing protocols on incoming flights Dr Mkhize has moved to give South Africans the all clear. Our Minister of Tourism has meanwhile outlined three possible scenarios, the worst being presumably internal travel restrictions. This contrasts with the UK which this week announced a robust ‘containment and delay strategy’.

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During the 2003 coronavirus outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a passenger aboard a flight from Hong Kong to Beijing infected people well outside the WHO’s two-row boundary. The New England Journal of Medicine noted that the WHO criteria “would have missed 45 percent of the patients with SARS.”

The Harvard Business Review published an article Feb 28, on the need for cheap Covid-19 diagnosis, stating: “Testing at a broader, global scale may be necessary, .. would require a point-of-care “rapid” diagnostic kit. We made the same case for combating the less-widespread albeit tragic Ebola and Zika crises. Such broad testing cannot depend on specialized equipment and a relative handful of centralized labs; people need to be tested in clinics and perhaps even at their doorsteps. Our most recent models indicate that in order to control coronavirus within a year, 80% of symptomatic patients would need to be tested and isolated within a day of symptoms appearing.”

Am therefore not reassured at all by the approach outlined by the Minister, and totally agree with Dr Anthony Fauci of the Whitehouse Covid-19 task-team that ‘millions of diagnostic tests are needed’, and thus ‘a more robust approach to testing‘. Over-reliance by our own department of health on a symptomatic approach and post-infection ‘tracer-teams’ presents many dangers, including the possibility of community infection.

Karl Greenfield, the author of a book on SARS writes “I noticed a pattern in how the media, governments, and public-health systems respond to infectious-disease outbreaks. There are four stages of epidemic grief: denial, panic, fear, and if all goes well, rational response”.

A comparison between the experience of Hong Kong and Italy is useful. “In Hong Kong”, says first-responder Michael Coston, “they assumed the disease was already in the community, and they not only continued to work to prevent further entry, they put very tough measures in place to prevent its spread. Italy, on the other hand, has been mostly reactive. Waiting for community spread to become obvious, and then dealing with each outbreak as if it were a limited event, rather than a systemic problem.”

We cannot afford to simply wait for patients to present themselves to doctors. Let’s not become like Mauritania where several patients fleeing a red zone were apprehended, or Iran, where failure to quarantine has lead to a massive public health disaster.

Even Zimbabwe, with limited resources has a better policy than our own Health Dept in demanding persons entering Zim supply a Covid-19-free certificate. Have we forgotten about yellow fever? I should hope not. The global spread of the virus appears to have outstripped plans outlined in a presentation by Kerrigan McCarthy of the DOH. They involve development of a single questionnaire for travelers from China, and ‘provision of additional thermometers and staff to support screening.’

The latest announcement of a lowering of the threshold of surveillance of pneumonia cases in both public and private health systems is unlikely to impact on future case numbers, however expanding the definition of suspect cases to include persons with pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness, as Singapore has done, will offer many benefits.

Coronoviruses are a family of hundreds of viruses that can cause fever, respiratory problems, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms too, and include Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS).

Covid-19 with a reproduction number or R0 of 1.4–3.8 is bound to turn into a community disease extremely quickly if we all carry on pretending, like Iran, that the science doesn’t matter, it does. To give an indication, SARS had an r0 of 2-5, while MERS was 0.3-0.8. Anything greater than 1 is able to spread, with Measles at the top of the list of airborne diseases with a whopping R0 of 12-18. Reports carried by South Africa’s PE Herald appear to confuse Covid-19 with MERS, and consequently are based upon a lower R0!

The virus is several more times infectious than the Flu, and has a high mortality rate, according to Dr Richard Hatchett, who heads up the UK Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. However a piece in MIT Technology Review suggests a different rate of infection: “The flu has a shorter incubation period (the time it takes for an infected person to show symptoms) and a shorter serial interval (or the time between successive cases). Coronavirus’s serial interval is around five to six days, while flu’s gap between cases is more like three days, the WHO says. So flu still spreads more quickly.“

comparison between the seasonal flu and Covid-19 shows that while average mortality rate for seasonal flu is just 0.1%, mortality spectrum for the novel coronovirus is anywhere between 1%-18% depending upon age group. This is an order of magnitude greater! For the common flu the spectrum is just 0.01-0.83%. Our DOH has its decimals in the wrong place! The official WHO average Covid-19 mortality rate is 3.4% Italy is reporting a 4.2% apparent mortality rate. (see How Deadly is the Coronovirus?) and (Covid-19 Facts Checked).

If one uses German Chancellor Merkels estimates that 40%-60% of the population will invariably be infected: South Africa with a population of 52 million must plan for some 20 800 000 to 31 200 000 cases of which 1.8 – 3.4 % will be critical. In other words we stand to lose 561 600 to 1 060 800 and 374 400 to 707 200 people during the course of the epidemic.

Extrapolating stats from the North presents certain difficulties, the least of which is our country has many informal settlements and an under-resourced public health system. The figures therefore need to be corrected by a factor of 3, — we could end up shedding anywhere between 1 200 000 and 3 million people.

South Africans must demand better screening technology and protocols now! “The clinical picture suggests a pattern of disease that’s not dissimilar to what we might see in influenza,” according to a report carried by online news site Bloomberg, as to why the disease turns deadly.“The progression from mild or moderate to severe can occur “very, very quickly,” says Bruce Aylward, a WHO assistant director-general who co-led a mission in China that reviewed data from 56,000 cases”.

A doctor on the front line of Italy’s fight against coronavirus has described the epidemic as a “disaster” and warned the public is underestimating the threat posed by the disease because of a “war on panic”.

By some accounts, Covid-19 also appears to operate as a ‘Flu-like Malaria’ in effect, resulting in similar respiratory complications and according to a paper published via Pubmed,treatable by chloroquine phosphate. Anti-virals such as lopinavir-ritonavir have also proven effective in Spain, as have the use of protease inhibitors. Some have therefore also likened the disease to a form of ‘HIV Flu’, but this is an overstatement and predicated upon the use of effective viral disruptors. A more accurate description would be ‘viral pneumonia’, but how to explain the reports of fever?

The virus can live on surfaces for up to three days.

We therefore need to demand evidence-based decision-making and rollout of at very least, a nation-wide hygiene and hand-washing programme. A political sermon from Minister Mkhize on how to go about treating the victims, given the current low numbers in our country, is inappropriate in the absence of answers to the problem of incubation and Red Zone arrivals at our ports-of-entry. So too, is the prejudice shown against persons of Chinese origin, by those who also ignore the fact that patients are also recovering.

Now is not the time however to be sacrificing public health in the quest for individual patients rights, yes all humans have rights and yes, we need to defend them vigorously, but we also need to ask our Minister of Health: who decides who is going to live or die if our public health system is flooded to over capacity by government inaction and negligence? Without sufficient preemptive intervention as opposed to post-infection mitigation, the pandemic will in all certainty, escalate and impact our nation.

SEE: Coronovirus why you must act now

Why bother with law when you can simply capture the justice system?

IN 2009 the ANC under Jacob Zuma, exercised its influence to place then director of the Resolve Group, Michael Halton Cheadle on the bench, at the behest of a cartel active in South Africa’s media.

Cheadle, who was at the time, in partnership with Max Sisulu and media group, Kagiso, proceeded to preside over a matter involving the media, a complaint of unfair discrimination effecting his own client and business partners. The former professor of law at UCT, admits as much in a 2011 report to Cape Law Society but denies any culpability. The admission that the respondent in the labour matter, Media24 was Cheadle’s client drew absolutely no censure from the law society governing the legal profession, after a complaint was referred to the body by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The JSC paradoxically claims it lacks jurisdiction to hear complaints effecting acting judges.

In the report, Cheadle denies having any business relationship involving the media and justified his directorship and shareholding in Resolve on the basis of a decision handed down in Bernert v Absa Bank. In that matter a judge’s over-the-counter shareholding came under scrutiny and was found to be de minimus and not sufficient to effect the outcome.

Cheadle’s directorship and shareholding in a labour brokerage and financial services firm was clearly not de minimus and amounts to corruption in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. To put this another way, why pay an attorney when you can buy the judge? Several partners at Resolve had ties to Media24 and/or Cheadle Thompson Haysom (CTH) and/or the ANC, including Peter Harris, Nicola Galombik, and Murphy Morobe.

Galombik at the time was the executive director of Yellowoods, then majority owned by TBWA Hunt Lascaris who listed Media24 as a client. (“TBWA Media24 showcase”)

Far from being insignificant, Cheadle’s shareholding flouted the ‘nemo rule’ (nemo judex in causa sua), one of the bedrocks of our justice system. For those who cannot read Latin, the phrase translates: ‘no one should be judge in his or her own case’, it is a widely known principle of natural justice.

How did we get here?

Kagiso Trust Holdings (KTH) was founded in 1985 during a ‘period of intense struggle in South Africa’. The company’s website states: “During this tumultuous time, we strongly opposed apartheid by providing support to development institutions and initiatives across a range of sectors.”

Whilst South Africans were being entertained by what many referred to as the ‘Roelf Meyer and Cyril Ramaphosa show‘, another relationship had blossomed at CODESA, that between the Sisulus and the Ruperts. The result was the creation of an entity known as New Africa Investments Limited (NAIL) and holding company Phaphama Holdings, setting the scene for the Sisulus to get into bed with Remgro, the former Rembrandt Group, and thus the company which had financed apartheid.

It appears NAIL was one of the first empowerment vehicles, ‘which had emerged from Nasrec’. (1) An ’empawamenti’ sweetheart deal calved from Sanlam’s stake in Metropolitan. (2)  It was thus the first black-owned business to be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. NAIL chairman, the late Zwelakhe Sisulu would find himself actively involved in New African Media as his Urban Brew later became an asset owned by Kagiso, and Nail and Kagiso merged despite objections being raised before the Competition Commission. (3)

It is not the purpose of this piece to examine the multifarious ANC deployments to the ‘commanding heights of the economy’, during this period, and the rapid recapitalisation of the economy during an initial boom period, other than to emphasise the party’s central relationships which emerged to form the Resolve Group, and thus the relationship between Resolve and a group of Afrikaners who are invested in South Africa’s media.

In 2003 Kagiso expanded its media holdings and took up a 30% stake in Resolve, a substantial holding in a company which would later turn out to be extremely useful in keeping labour and dissident voices in check. The Resolve Group aimed to provide a ‘total solution in workforce management‘ and included inter alia Resolve Workplace Solutions, Resolve Encounter Consulting, Tokiso Dispute Management, Converse Consulting, Mediaworks, Resolve Career Transition, CCI Growthcon and Resolution Logic, all involved in the employment, placement and management of workers and professionals.

As a result of the intertwined business relationships developed at NAIL, in 2005 Remgro took up a 37% stake in Kagiso, with the result that Rupert Bellegings Pty Ltd, the holding company of Remgro, now had an effective stake in the former struggle press. The project which began at CODESA had come full circle. Readers may remember that CODESA 2 was instrumental in the restructuring of the SABC which would result in the late Zwelakhe Sisulu also taking the helm of the public corporation (1994 to 1997) and setting the scene for a controversy before the Zondo Commission involving Naspers’ Multichoice.

Max Sisulu was thus a director at Resolve, a labour and financial services firm during 2010, whilst his brother was at NAIL/Kagiso. Max is a prominent member of the ANC. At the time of the corrupt activities involving Resolve, he was then speaker of the House of Assembly, where he divided his time between chairing the 6th House, and his duties at Resolve.

In 2004 ANC members Max Sisulu and Murphy Morobe had been approached by Peter Harris to take up shares in the Resolve Group, Harris had practised law for 15 years at Cheadle, Thompson & Haysom and in the early 1990s was ‘seconded to the National Peace Accord, after which he headed the Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission for the 1994 election.’ Morobe significantly had been the ‘administration head’ at CODESA, and his relationship with the Sisulus stretched back to the days of Khotso House and the UDF.

Harris was thus instrumental in turning Resolve into a party political clearinghouse, that provided entry to the justice system and those seeking to influence the outcome of events.

Just about nobody batted an eyelid when Remgro (the former Rembrandt Group) and one of the financiers of apartheid, acquired a stake in Kagiso. And no journalist bothered raising an eyebrow when warning lights would signal that the result would turn into a highly interconnected, networked media empire, in which both Remgro and Kagiso provided content to Multichoice, at the same time they were effectively invested in Naspers, and with the Ruperts holding the purse strings over an empire which comprised, banking, insurance, media and fibre optic cable.

The strategy which had played itself out at Nasrec and CODESA was clear — draw the ANC top brass into the Afrikaner Laager, gain strength and economic position in the ensuing rivalry between various arms of the new emerging black empowerment class, and use this advantage to stall any attempt to gain traction on apartheid litigation. Litigation which might have involved the Tobacco industry, an industry which at the behest of the Ruperts, had bailed out apartheid-era banks when sanctions had brought the country to its knees.

As I write this, there is a call by Khulumani an organisation representing apartheid survivors, to establish a tribunal in the aftermath of the TRC, to make good on the transitional justice framework which granted amnesty to those who came clean, but demanded that justice be served against those who did not.

Oscar van Heerden writes: “if the commissioners were not convinced of the truth or if the evidence did not tally with your version of the truth, then amnesty could be withheld. However, if you elected not to come forward and hide the truth because you might be under the mistaken impression that secrets would remain secret, if the truth was found, and you were implicated, you would be prosecuted and perhaps even imprisoned. Those were the rules.”

Then there are those individuals such as Johann Rupert whose testimony before the commission is a marvel of invention, a narrative in which he fails to explain what his family was doing at the very heart of the racist system.

Rupert continues to claim today that he was unaware of any financial contributions to the National Party, despite there being extensive evidence of collaboration with the system. His assertions have not been tested in a court of law. Open secret’s Hennie van Vuuren for instance, has already demonstrated extensive links between the Naspers corporation and the National Party.

The letters between Anton Rupert and various National Party leaders such as PW Botha, all point to the fact that the Rupert’s business partners included apartheid finance minister Owen Horwood and titular head of the country, Nico Diederichs.

The Rupert’s though critical of the apartheid policy of separate development, had instead advocated a form of “Volkstaat” in the form of a Swiss Canton System, which would have kept large swathes of the country under white rule. The logical extension some might say to the policy of apartheid bantustans, and which would, in the Rupert’s view, have been maintained in comparison to the federalist position, a position which resulted in the system we have today.

Since the winding up of the TRC, there have been several inquests, notably the Timol Inquest and Aggett Inquest in which apartheid agent Paul Erasmus has given damming testimony of the dirty tricks campaign waged against activists and the anti-apartheid press under the aegis of a state funded by the Ruperts.

Surely time for the Zondo Commission to expand its terms of reference to include the many sweetheart deals involving ANC party officials and the media, the least of which is the role played by PW Botha in his award of South Africa’s only pay-television licence to Multichoice, and the corruption which has kept apartheid litigation out of court, despite the TRC process. It should be remembered that those who received amnesty did not receive amnesty against future crimes.

NOTES

(1) Objections lodged before the Competition Commission by Johannic to a merger between Kagiso and NAIL were overruled in 2003, since ‘Tiso consortium had effectively bought up to 81.9 % of the “N” shares in Nail and 31.8 % of the ordinary shares’.

(2) https://hsf.org.za/publications/focus/issue-27-third-quarter-2002/the-tale-of-nail

‘New Africa Investments Ltd was founded in the early Nineties by Dr Nthato Motlana, with 16 per cent of Metropolitan Life, unloaded by an altruistic Sankorp in the cause of ’empawamenti’. The hammer behind Nail was token mlungu Jonty Sandler, who had earlier cost his bankers a bundle at Nasrec’

(3) Some 11+ subsequent mergers by Kagiso were given the green light by CompCom.

(4) https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/apr/22/chrismcgreal

‘Criticism has focused on the four directors – three black, one white – of New African Investments Limited (Nail). They planned to ask shareholders to grant them share options worth £13m, which would have put about £2m in the pockets of each.’

(5) https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2014-04-27-bee-deals-a-skimmers-dream-come-true/

‘The first empowerment deal done in South Africa was Sanlam’s sale of a stake in Metropolitan to a little-known entity called New Africa Investments (Nail). In 1993, more than 10 years before the first BEE legislation was introduced, Sanlam rushed the sale through when it heard that Anglo American was about to do a similar transaction with its insurance operation, African Life.’

De Klerk treason, Jou Ma Se FW, Nuremberg revisited

FALLOUT from the past weeks De Klerk statements need to be seen within the context of equivocation by those responsible for apartheid. The Preamble to our Constitution makes it abundantly clear that the alpha and omega, the sine qua non for South African citizenship, adherence to our law, is ‘recognition of the injustice of the past’. Denying both the criminality and instrumentality of the apartheid regime is certainly deserving of the same punishment meted out to those who attempt to undermine the integrity and status of the Republic.

President Ramaphosa said as much in his response in the National Assembly. “Apartheid was immoral from its conception” and “so devastating in its execution that there no South African today that it is not touched by its legacy … I would even go as far as to say to deny this is treasonous”.

It remains to be seen whether or not De Klerk’s past apologia before the Truth Commission, at the face of it, an unequivocal recognition that apartheid was wrong and thus a submission which elicited forgiveness by all those affected, including amnesty from prosecution, will extend to his recent comments prevaricating and equivocating on the matter. This was followed by a rather sinuous and insincere retraction,  as his foundation moved to withdraw statements essentially calling various UN resolutions,’ the work of Soviet Era agit prop’.

The ease with which the De Klerk Foundation was able to launch such an attack against fellow South Africans, whilst supporting  the last white President under apartheid and his prevarication on the matter, begs the question as to what damages may be awarded any activists who seek to sue the Foundation on the behalf of the country?

Ayanda Mdluli of the Independent Group was moved to write: “Just like the Nazi at the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War, he must be brought to book, along with the many apartheid co-conspirators and perpetrators who were let off the hook by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the early 90s”

De Klerk’s raising the subject of whether or not apartheid was a crime against humanity, is a stance which has elicited widespread condemnation. The least of which is that Desmond Tutu was moved to address the ‘appropriatness of the former President, debating the terribleness of apartheid’.

It is unclear whether or not De Klerk is able to claim parliamentary privilege as a former President, since his remarks are clearly defamatory and aimed at the anti-apartheid movement. Their wrongfulness may be demonstrated by the fact that not all opponents of apartheid were communists, nor are they necessarily doctrinaire socialists, for that matter.

Indeed the lessons of both the TRC and Nuremberg need to be learnt and studied.  It was South Africa which first proposed an alternative to the Nuremberg process. Instead of bringing the perpetrators to immediate trial, they would initially be given an opportunity to come clean before a commission of inquiry, which rewarded those who appeared with amnesty while leaving it up to the justice system to punish those who did not.

In theory, the system worked if sufficient funds were made available to those wishing to pursue post-TRC prosecutions. Unfortunately, our government failed to create the necessary support services for those activists like myself, who were faced with an unenviable predicament — as it turned out, there were still agents of apartheid who clung to apartheid denial, who refused to appear before the commission, and who now proceeded to act with impunity.

Worse, the justice system itself was captured by apartheid denialists, those like Ton Vosloo, who had waged a campaign against the TRC from day one, and who had chosen to hide behind constitutional guarantees of a free press, whilst denying others the selfsame rights to speak.

Mdluli’s piece alludes to problems presented by the Naspers corporation, which until recently was merely an organ of the old National Party. I have written extensively about the Naspers-sponsored campaign against the TRC . Clearly it is not enough for our President to simply issue condemnation after condemnation, without taking practical steps against persons like De Klerk, who have sought to capture both the organs of state, and our judiciary under the pretence of national reconciliation.

It cannot be that apartheid denial is the order of the day, nor that any court is allowed to defenestrate both our Preamble, and transitional justice system which created the Constitution. Bear in mind, that it was the TRC Act of 1993, and thus the TRC itself which was a necessary pre-condition for the Constitutional Assembly to create our Constitution in 1996.

Again it needs to be stated, that any courtroom wishing to overturn the 1973 UN Convention on the Crime of Apartheid, would be subverting not only the international justice system, but the justice system created by the will of the people.

I therefore have no hesitation in condemning the blatantly irresponsible and perfidious decisions handed down in Lewis v Media24 (2010) and Lewis v Legal Aid South Africa (2019) and issued in favour of apartheid functionaries .

The people of South Africa deserve better than apartheid denial from our justice system.

SEE: Afrikaner academics condemn apartheid as a crime against humanity

SEE: FW’s ‘truth’ a sickening read

 

Sorry, but the facts don’t support Iqbal Survé’s latest opinion piece

IN AN editorial published on IOL today, Iqbal Survé CEO of the Independent Media Group, a group with 9 daily newspapers, 10 Weekend Newspapers and 2 financial papers, doesn’t seem to get that the role of newspapers is to reflect back the diversity of opinion in the country.

Instead he seeks to cast his hopelessly conservative brand based upon prohibition rather than permission, as a ‘progressive’ voice ‘pitted against “a morass of anti-progressive Fourth Estate propaganda machines operating in this country, apparently bent on preventing true freedom of speech.”

In order to substantiate his argument, he then goes on to attack the online Daily Maverick without any evidence, for apparently being funded “by the Oppenheimers and other well-placed businessmen and families” and the Mail and Guardian, a niche weekly, for being ‘funded primarily by overseas backers who themselves have certain political interests’.

Significantly, he avoids the implications of a massive cartel within the daily news (print, television and radio) whose ultimate control is assuredly, a company known as Rupert Bellegings Pty Ltd.

Survé further fails to note that INM is itself, funded by our own government investment arm, the PIC and also organs of the Chinese government. He fails to explain what steps he has taken to defend ‘freedom of speech” in particular on issues related, to Tibet, Taiwan, Myanmar, and the Uyghurs, a Moslem minority in China. And closer to home, on issues related to divergences of culture, religion, politics and opinion.

An example would be the LGBT community, which following the takeover of INM by Survé, appears to have been rendered invisible.

Or the Jewish community, a sizeable minority, which is no longer granted the same status as other, more favoured groups.

In 2007 the ANC banned the Dalai Lama.

I therefore challenge Survé to demonstrate how his newspapers are in any way independent and ‘progressive’, other than their slavish subservience to the prescient political party of the day.

A news media which censors on the basis of ones purported political and cultural affiliations, whether proven or not, is not a progressive media. Rather, such organs are more in keeping with the Soviet era and its Pravda news agency.

SEE: Closure of the Mind, Independent Media’s suppression of open debate and a free press