Jean-Jacques Cornish

South Africa discovers a variation COVID virus

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South African clinicians have discovered a variant of the COVID 19 virus that appears to be more contagious than the original pathogen and affects younger victims more seriously.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the mutation, called SARS-COVID-501v2 is similar to the variation discovered in Britain that has been officially described as out of control.

It has been found in 200 samples in 50 different hospitals.

The mutation was first identified in the Eastern Cape province but has since moved along the coast to the Western Cape and upward to KwaZulu Natal.

COVID is growing exponentially in these three provinces, says Mkhize and added restrictions will probably be necessary.

The minister has been visiting the more seriously infected regions since President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced that the second wave of COVID has officially hit South Africa.

He restricted the hours that restaurants would-be allowed to open and cut from six to four the number of days that retail liquor outlets could open.

The nighttime curfew has been extended by two hours.

Beaches in the Eastern Cape have been closed and those in the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal are officially shut on the peak holidays.

This has not stopped holiday makers traveling to these leisure spots during their peak summer vacation.

The death toll on SouthAfrican roads this month approaches 700.

Mkhize deplored secondary school leavers celebrating the end of their examination in massive, drink-fueled parties along the coast that have become super-spreader events.

“These young peopled not wear masks and are clearly intoxicated,” he said.

“They throw caution to the wind and don’t care about the rules of the disaster.”

South Africa’s latest COVID 19 figures show 216 deaths in the past 24 hours and 8769 new cases.

This brings the total death toll to 24 907 with 913 000.infections. Officials record that 796 000 of these have recovered

The Health Ministry says having missed the December 15 deadline,  South Africa has now paid the deposit for COVID vaccinations expected to arrive early next year.

Dr Anban Pillay of the National Health Department says as a member of COVAX South Africa expects to be part of the first allocation of vaccines.

It is clear whether existing vaccines are effective against  501v2.

The bulk of the vaccinations in South Africa will be in the third and fourth quarters of 2021.

In the COVID hotspots, hospitals are reporting that beds are full in the intensive care units where seriously ill patients receive oxygen and sometime ventillation.

In the Western Cape, doctors say they are having to make life and death decisions as COVID cases soar.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.