Asymptomatic infections important drivers of flu transmission, study finds

A new study published in Lancet Global Health has revealed asymptomatic individuals were also able to spread flu, transmitting it to about 6% of household contacts.

“For this reason, authors of the study believe asymptomatic infections to be an important driver of flu transmission,” the statement read on Wednesday.

The study was conducted by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU), and WITS Agincourt HDSS, in partnership with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also funded the study.

The study evaluated the community burden and transmission of influenza (flu) from 2017 to 2018 in a rural and an urban South Africa community.

The NICD stated that approximately 100 randomly selected households were enrolled each year and observed for a period of 10 months.

A total of 81 430 samples were collected from 1 116 participants in 225 households, of which 79% (178 out of 225 households) had at least one person who tested flu positive.

“In each year, three out of four households have at least one person infected with flu each year. Therefore, flu is very common.”

Meanwhile, according to the findings, over half of the flu infections were symptomatic, indicating that a high number of asymptomatic flu infections were present.

Children and flu

The study has also shown that the burden of laboratory-confirmed flu was high in both the rural and urban African setting, with over three-quarters of households and more than one in three individuals experiencing at least one flu infection each year.

“It is important to note that the flu incidence risk was similar between the rural and urban areas who participated in the study.”

Meanwhile, repeated flu infections within the same annual flu epidemic, particularly in children, were a common occurrence in more than 15% of those infected.

“With young children also experiencing the highest-burden of flu infection and symptomatic illness, this group was more likely to spread the flu to others in their household, in comparison to other age groups.”

Influenza-associated influenza-like illness

Medically attended influenza-associated influenza-like illness (ILI), defined as fever and cough, suggest that the flu disease burden in the community may be substantially higher than that observed through facility-based surveillance.

“Understanding the community burden and transmission of seasonal influenza is critical to guide vaccination programmes and non-pharmaceutical interventions, not to mention informing pandemic preparedness.”

The statement said a similar study to examine the burden and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the same communities, including the role of asymptomatic infections, in the spread of COVID-19, was initiated in July 2020.

The results of this study are expected in the coming months. – SAnews.gov.za

Have your say on new energy vehicles green paper

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) has released a green paper on the advancement of new energy vehicles in South Africa.

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister, Ebrahim Patel, said the purpose of the Green Paper is to establish a clear policy foundation that will enable the country to coordinate a long-term strategy that will position South Africa at the forefront of advanced vehicle and vehicle component manufacturing.

“The strategy is complemented by a consumption leg, and a focus on increasing competitiveness in the global race to transition from the internal combustion engine era, into electro-mobility solutions and technologies,” Patel said on Tuesday.

In August 2019, the Minister set the large automakers in South Africa a challenge to help develop a roadmap for the local production of electric vehicles.

The various work streams of the auto industry’s Master Plan were launched shortly thereafter, which included one focussed on technology changes and on deeper localisation.

In 2020, the importance of this work was emphasised and more recently, a number of developments in key export markets has helped to step up the pace of work.

The Draft Green Paper seeks to develop a framework upon which a comprehensive and long-term automotive industry transformation plan on new energy vehicles can emerge, with specific focus on:

  • Creation of a high-yielding business environment, including an appropriate fiscal and regulatory framework, that makes South Africa a leading and a highly competitive location, not only within the African continent but globally, for electric vehicle production;
  • Support and investment in the expansion and development of new and existing manufacturing plants to support the production of new energy vehicles and components within South Africa and to grow the level of employment in the sector;
  • Development and investment in new energy vehicle component technology and expansion of the fledgling electric supply chain, by increasing support and investment in a set of unique NEV components;
  • Reinvestment and support towards reskilling and upskilling of the workforce to ensure the right skills are available for the design, engineering and manufacturing of electric vehicles and related components and systems;
  • The transition of South Africa towards cleaner fuel technologies available globally;
  • Adoption of new and sustainable manufacturing processes to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve our environmental wealth; and
  • Ensuring that that Research and Development investment is strategically targeted at activities that are likely to give South Africa a competitive advantage.

“We must step up efforts to build electric vehicles in South Africa, to keep our auto industry at the cutting edge of new market developments, and to maintain our export capacity for key markets such as the EU and UK. They have both set new targets and deadlines to reduce the number of fossil fuel reliant vehicles on their roads.

“We need charging infrastructure – and must expand the existing 200 charging points for electric vehicles in South Africa using the agreed SABS [South African Bureau of Standards] standard,” Patel said during his Budget Vote address to Parliament.

He added that government is seeing some progress in its efforts to green the economy and to position South Africa as a centre for advanced green manufacturing.

“For example, in November, the first units of the new Toyota Corolla hybrid vehicle are planned to roll off the production line in South Africa,” Patel said.

He said the green paper is released to invite substantive comments from all stakeholders, including members of the public.

“This is the beginning of a crucial public discourse that will define electro-mobility in South Africa.”

The roadmap to implementing the new energy vehicle policy will entail the following steps:

  • Gazetting the draft policy for public comments by the end of May 2021; and
  • Submitting the policy proposals to Cabinet for consideration by October 2021

The Green Paper may be found on the dtic’s website http://www.thedtic.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/EV_Green_Paper.pdf

Comments on the draft Green Paper may be forwarded to electricvehicle@thedtic.gov.za by no later than 4 June 2021. – SAnews.gov.za

Minister Bheki Cele and Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale brief media on 2021/22 Police Budget Vote, 20 May

Minister of Police General Bheki Cele and Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale will deliver the police budget vote highlighting the vision and strategic focal points for the department of police and its entities for the 2021/22 financial year

Police budget vote virtual presentation

Date: 20 May 2021 
Time: 14:00 – 16:30

Virtual links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/parliamentofRSA
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/parliamentofRSA
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ParliamentofRSA

Members of the media are invited to join the post Budget Vote media interaction.

Details are as follows:
Date: 20 May 2021
Time: 17h00
Venue:  Ronnie Mamoepa Press Room, Tshedimosetso House, 1035 Frances Baard Street, Hatfield, Pretoria.

Virtual links for media briefing

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sapoliceservice
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/sapoliceservice
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/sapoliceservice

Enquiries:
Lirandzu Themba 
Police Ministry Spokesperson
Cell: 082 604 9080

Slight decrease in Vaal River system levels

A major part of the dams within the Integrated Vaal River System (IVRS) have this week seen a decrease in levels, while others have remained unchanged for the second subsequent week, with just one recording an increase.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Department of Water and Sanitation said its weekly reservoir report shows that nine of the dams within the system dropped and four others remained unchanged from last week.

“Inevitably, the mixed picture in the levels of the system spilt over to the overall level of system as shown in its decline this week,” the department said.

Last week, the system was at 91.3% and this week, the system is at 91.0%.

“The level of the system this week represents a substantial improvement from 67.4% over the same week in the preceding year.

“The system is the backbone of the economy of Gauteng as the economic hub not only of South Africa, but the entire African continent. Leading industries that breathe life into the country’s economy, such as Sasol and Eskom, are supplied with water from the system,” the department said.

A significant dam within the system, the Vaal Dam, has declined this week. It lowered from 101.4% last week to slightly above the 100% at 100.7% this week. During the same time last year, the dam had slightly passed the 50% to stand at 50.5%.

Another dam to flow at lesser level this week is the Grootdraai Dam. It fell from last week’s 94.9% to 93.5% presently. The dam stood at 89.2% at this time last year.

“The Lesotho’s Katse and Mohale dams have equally dropped this week. The former dam has seen a decrease to 76.5% from 77.1% last week.

“The dam bounced back from a dire state of 37.7%, which it recorded twelve months ago during the same week,” the department said.

Meanwhile, the latter dam continues to lurch from a calamitous situation to an even lower level this week.  It dipped further from 38.7% last week to 38.2% this week. Last year at the same time, it made for a dismal spectacle at 14.5%.

“On the contrary, the Bloemhof Dam has surged this week. It went up from 107.6% last week to 108.0% this week. During the preceding year at the same time, the dam was down at 99.2% but in a remarkably strong position,” the department said.

The Sterkfontein Dam remains at 98.7% for the second subsequent week.

In the previous year during the same week, the dam was lesser but steady at 93.5%.

Three other dams that are unchanged from last week’s levels are Woodstock Dam at 100.0%, Zaaihoek Dam 80.0% as well as the Vygeboom 100.3%

The other dams within the system stand as follows:

  • Jericho –  83.5%
  • Morgenstond –  85.7%
  • Westoe – 84.2%
  • Heyshope – 86.8%
  • Nooitgedacht – 96.4%

“The department continues to plead with both businesses and households to use water with care. In this regard, it appeals that toilets should not be flushed unless it is necessary to do so. This could assist to save many litres of water, as toilets do not require flushing after every use of the facility.

“In the same vein, the department wishes to reiterate that when washing cars water users must refrain from using hosepipes but rather use buckets. This is especially the case for businesses such as car washes,” the department said. – SAnews.gov.za 

Minister Fikile Mbalula and Deputy Minister Dikeledi Magadzi brief media on 2021/22 Transport Budget Vote, 21 May

The Department of Transport Budget Vote 2021

The Minister of Transport, Mr. Fikile Mbalula together with the Deputy Minister, Ms Dikeledi Magadzi will on Friday deliver the Department of Transport Budget Vote.

The Minister will outline steps taken in professionalizing the Taxi Industry by announcing names of the newly appointed Eminent Persons Group. This will also be an opportunity to outline and update South Africans on plans already in place to rationalize and fix department entities and strengthening traffic law enforcement.

The minister and the deputy minister will share plans for massive roadsinfrastructure projects as part of the Government’s Economic Recovery Plan.

Members of the Media are welcome to sit in with the Minister in Midrand where he will be delivering the Budget Vote virtually to parliament.

Media is invited as follows:
Date: Friday, 21 May 2021
Venue: Road Traffic and Management Cooperation offices in Midrand, 253Howick Cl, Vorna Valley, Midrand
Time: 10:00am

Live Streaming Platforms

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ParliamentofRSA  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ParliamentofRSA

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ParliamentofRSA

Parlianment DSTV Channel 408

The Budget Vote Speech will be followed by a Media Briefing

Below are the Webinar Link and ID for members of the media who will be joining the Media Briefing virtually:

Registration Link

https://gcis.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dFgJ-gQCQZWceoFUjIVeqA

Webinar Passcode

289830

Enquiries: Mr Esethu Hasane, Media Liaison Officer at the Ministry of Transport 071 259 2422 hasanee@dot.gov.za

Media enquiries: Ms Ayanda Allie Paine, 072 566 0827 / painea@dot.gov.za

Water and Sanitation on Integrated Vaal River System dams project

IVRS dams project a mixed picture as they drop while others are stagnant this week 

A major part of the dams within the Integrated Vaal River System (IVRS) have this week seen a decrease in levels while others have remained unchanged for the second subsequent week, with just one recording an increase.

According to the Department of Water and Sanitation’s weekly reservoir report, nine of the dams within the system dropped and four others remained unchanged from last week.

Inevitably, the mixed picture in the levels of the system spilt over to the overall level of system as shown in its decline this week. Last week, the system, which is still in a top notch position, was at 91.3%. This week the system is hovering at 91.0%. The level of the system this week represents a substantial improvement from 67.4% over the same week in the preceding year.

The system is the backbone of the economy of Gauteng as the economic hub not only of South African but the entire African Continent. Leading industries that breathe life to the country’s economy such as Sasol and Eskom are supplied with water from the system.

A significant dam within the system, the Vaal Dam has declined this week. It lowered from 101.4% last week to slightly above the 100% at 100.7% this week. During the same time last year, the dam had slightly passed the 50% to stand at 50.5%.

Another dam to flow at lesser level this week is the Grootdraai Dam. It fell from last week’s 94.9% to 93.5% presently. The dam stood at 89.2% at this time last year. 

The Lesotho’s Katse and Mohale dams have equally dropped this week.

The former dam has seen a decrease to 76.5% from 77.1% last week. The dam bounced back from a dire state of 37.7%, which it recorded twelve months ago during the same week.

Meanwhile, the latter dam continues to lurch from a calamitous situation to an even lower level this week.  It dipped further from 38.7% last week to 38.2% this week. Last year at the same time, it made for a dismal spectacle at 14.5%.

On the contrary, the Bloemhof Dam has surged this week. It went up from 107.6% last week to 108.0% this week. During the preceding year at the same time, the dam was down at 99.2% but in a remarkably strong position. 

The Sterkfontein Dam remains at 98.7% for the second subsequent week. In the previous year during the same week, the dam was lesser but steady at 93.5%. Three other dams that are unchanged from last week’s levels are Woodstock Dam at 100.0%, Zaaihoek Dam 80.0% as well as the Vygeboom 100.3%

The other dams within the system stand as follows:

  • Jericho –  83.5%
  • Morgenstond –  85.7%
  • Westoe – 84.2%
  • Heyshope – 86.8%
  • Nooitgedacht – 96.4%

The Department continues to plead with both businesses and households to use water with care. In this regard, it appeals that toilets should not be flushed unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. This could assist to save many litres of water as toilets do not require flushing after every use of the facility.

In the same vein, the Department wishes to reiterate that when washing cars water users must refrain from using hosepipes but rather use buckets. This is especially the case for businesses such as car washes.

Enquiries: 
Sputnik Ratau
Cell: 082 874 2942

Hosia Sithole  
Cell: 082 723 2442

Western Cape Economic Development and Tourism calls for introduction of remote working visa to help tourism recovery

Western Cape Government calls for introduction of remote working visa to help tourism recovery

To support tourism recovery in the Western Cape we are working hard to find innovative ways to attract visitors by embracing new forms of global travel that have emerged with the Covid-19 pandemic. 

And so, today (19 May 2021), the Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, wrote to the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, and the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, with a submission to request that national government urgently introduce a ‘Remote Working Visa’ to allow international visitors to stay longer and work remotely while travelling in South Africa.

The Western Cape has everything it takes to be the best remote working location in the world if we remove the red tape and roll out the red carpet for digital nomad tourists.

For that reason, we have also written to the Deputy Minister of Finance, David Masondo, in his role as part of Operation Vulindela, because removing regulatory barriers such as this one will be key to driving investment in South Africa and stimulating overall economic recovery and growth.

Globally, many countries are competing to capture the market for the longer-stay tourist who can work online from anywhere in the world while earning and spending foreign currency in the country they are visiting. 

This is an important market right now, as this type of tourist is more resilient to the challenges that traditional tourism is facing given ongoing travel restrictions. Such tourists will also remain an important source of sustainable tourism long after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Announcing his support for the ‘Remote Working Visa’, Premier Alan Winde said: “I am pleased that today we are able to deliver on a promise I made in my State of the Province Address earlier this year and submit our request to national government to urgently introduce a ‘Remote Working Visa’. Given the severe impact that Covid-19 has had on the tourism sector in South Africa, this innovative visa would be a great contribution to our recovery. The Western Cape is a great place to live and to work and we are ready to welcome these visitors and provide them with a great place to explore while they work.”

In addition, to ensure that digital nomads are considering the province as a destination for remote work, Wesgro will launch a dedicated portal that curates and promotes a range of accommodation establishments and services across multiple locations to guide those looking for longer-stay options in the Western Cape. 

This follows a successful campaign run in partnership with Airbnb to promote remote working domestically, encouraging South Africans to take advantage of the flexibility that working from anywhere brings. 

Cape Town has made the 2021 list for the 50 “Best Cities for Remote Working” according to Big 7 Travel, but many of our small, coastal towns such as Langebaan and Hermanus are also proving very popular with those looking for destinations that offer good connectivity and a great outdoor lifestyle. 

With family-friendly options in the city as well as a world of activities to explore across the province, the Western Cape is perfect for those who want more out of their day – a meeting on the mountain, a dip in the ocean during screen breaks or the joy of working from the many breath-taking wine farms and quaint towns. The region has everything a remote worker needs for one day, three months, or even longer, and promises experiences that are wallet-friendly and world-class.

“Introducing a ‘Remote Working Visa’ makes business sense,” said Minister Maynier, “Not only will it attract a significant number of long-term, financially independent travellers to South Africa during this period of economic uncertainty, and in the long term, but remote workers are also more likely to invite their family and friends to visit in the future. This could also have positive spin-offs for foreign direct investment, and the promotion of South African goods and services exports as travellers get to know and love all the great things about our country.”

It is hoped that Minister Kubayi-Ngubane and Deputy Minister Masondo will both see the clear value in this regulatory change and will both be able to work with their counterpart, Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, to fast track the necessary changes to the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 Regulations.  

Media enquiries:
Francine Higham
Cell: 071 087 5150
E-mail: francine.higham@westerncape.gov.za

Special Investigations Unit welcomes prosecution of individuals linked to Eastern Cape Education fraud and corruption charges

SIU welcomes prosecution of Eastern Cape businessman and senior education department officials on charges of fraud and corruption

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) welcomes the prosecution of five individuals linked to the 2014 procurement of learner/ teacher supplementary resource material by the Eastern Cape Department of Education to the value of R59 million from an entity named the Siegesmund Trust. 
 
Businessman Johannes Hermanus Bouwer Smith, former Head of Department: Mthunywa Lawrence Ngonzo, former Chief Education Specialist: Noxolo Valencia Gwarube, together with the current Deputy Director General: Raymond Tywakadi (who was the Acting Superintendent-General/head of Department at the time of the offences), and current Deputy Director IT support services in the education department Tyronne Fourie appeared in the East London Magistrates Court on Monday on charges of corruption, fraud, attempted fraud, theft and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act. They were released on R5000 bail each and the matter was postponed to 8 July 2021 for copies of the docket and to allow for Tywakadi’s legal representative to be confirmed. 
 
The prosecution by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) follows an intensive investigation conducted by the SIU in the Eastern Cape Education Department which uncovered evidence pointing to criminal action and in particular corruption against the five accused. The evidence as required by SIU Act, was referred to the NPA and also to the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks) for further attention. 
 
The SIU is working closely with the NPA and Hawks in this regard and we will continue to work together to ensure that all role players identified through our investigations in the alleged crimes are held accountable. 
 
The SIU also made six disciplinary referrals against education department officials, including the Acting Head of Department at the time. The Department confirmed to the SIU that disciplinary action against four officials has commenced.  
 
In 2015 the SIU was directed in terms of Proclamation R598 of 2015, to investigate the procurement of or contracting for services by the education department and payments that were made in respect thereof. The SIU investigation uncovered that the goods were procured unlawfully and/or irregularly, in contravention of the provisions of the Department’s Supply Chain Management policy, in contravention of sections of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act No.5 of 2000, and in contravention of section 217(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. 
 
The SIU investigation further revealed that the Siegesmund Trust had delivered the resource material as per the terms of the irregular contract which has since been reviewed and set aside. As result, the SIU calculated the profit earned from the procurement contract and demanded it be paid back. Civil litigation was instituted by the SIU in the Grahamstown High Court to recover the monies. The trustees of Siegesmund Trust agreed to pay back R3 million in three instalments plus interest and the agreement was made an order of the Grahamstown High Court in March this year. 
 
Fraud and corruption allegations may be reported via the following platforms: siu@whistleblowing.co.za / Hotline: 0800 037 774

Enquiries:
Kaizer Kganyago
Tel: 012 843 0048
Cell: 082 306 8888
E-mail: kkganyago@siu.org.za  

SIU welcomes EC Education Department corruption arrests

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has welcomed the prosecution of four senior Eastern Cape Education Department officials and a businessman on charges of fraud and corruption.

The five are linked to the 2014 procurement of learner/ teacher supplementary resource material worth R59 million from Siegesmund Trust.

They businessman Johannes Smith, former Department head Mthunywa Ngonzo, former Chief Education Specialist Noxolo Gwarube, together with current department officials appeared before the East London Magistrates Court on Monday on charges of corruption, fraud, attempted fraud, theft and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

The current Department officials and suspects in the matter are Deputy Director General Raymond Tywakadi (Acting Superintendent-General/head of Department at the time), and IT services Deputy Director Tyronne Fourie also appeared in court.

They were released on R5000 bail each and the matter was postponed to 8 July 2021 for copies of the docket and to allow for Tywakadi’s legal representative to be confirmed.

“The prosecution by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) follows an intensive investigation conducted by the SIU in the Eastern Cape Education Department which uncovered evidence pointing to criminal action and in particular corruption against the five accused,” said the SIU in a statement.

The evidence, as required by the SIU Act, was referred to the NPA and also to the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks) for further attention.

“The SIU is working closely with the NPA and Hawks in this regard and we will continue to work together to ensure that all role players identified through our investigations in the alleged crimes are held accountable.

“The SIU also made six disciplinary referrals against education department officials, including the Acting Head of Department at the time. The Department confirmed to the SIU that disciplinary action against four officials has commenced,” the Unit said.

In 2015, the SIU was directed in terms of Proclamation R598 of 2015, to investigate the procurement of or contracting for services by the education department and payments that were made in respect thereof.

The SIU investigation uncovered that the goods were procured unlawfully and/or irregularly, in contravention of the provisions of the SCM policy, Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act No.5 of 2000, and section 217(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

The SIU investigation further revealed that the Siegesmund Trust had delivered the resource material as per the terms of the irregular contract which has since been reviewed and set aside.

As result, the SIU calculated the profit earned from the procurement contract and demanded it be paid back. Civil litigation was instituted by the SIU in the Grahamstown High Court to recover the monies.

The trustees of Siegesmund Trust agreed to pay back R3 million in three instalments plus interest and the agreement was made an order of the Grahamstown High Court in March this year. – SAnews.gov.za

Contact sports in schools suspended with immediate effect

The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) has pulled the plug on all contact sports with immediate effect, following COVID-19 cluster outbreaks in public schools.

According to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the decision was taken during a virtual meeting held on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, the department said non-contact sports training is permitted to proceed provided all social distancing, hygiene and safety measures are observed and there is zero physical contact between the participants.

Minister Angie Motshekga gazetted directions in consultation with related stakeholders allowing non-contact sports, sports-related activities, school-based art, and cultural activities to resume without spectators when the schools reopened this year.

According to the department, this was subject to adherence to health and safety measures.

“During the last week in term one, school sports activity related COVID-19 outbreaks in Gauteng province were reported and have been gradually increasing in term two,” it said.

According to the department, it is evident that despite following the protocols as guided by the directions on extramural activities and standard operating procedure on prevention and containment of COVID-19 that contact sport was a contributor to the spread of the virus.

“Following the school sports activities related COVID-19 outbreaks in Gauteng and the general rise of cases in communities across the country, the Outbreak Response Team said that the risk was high when engaged within close-contact sports, especially with people who did not live together,” the department said.

SAnews reported last week that academic activities were suspended in two schools in Gauteng after 11 Coronavirus infections were detected in Krugersdorp High School and six at St John’s College.

“In this regard, all sporting activities have been suspended with immediate effect until the cluster outbreak is subsequently over with no further cases reported including the preparatory school sport.”

The department said it will continue to monitor the situation and announced that a government gazette will be issued with notice in the coming days. – SAnews.gov.za