Tag: covid transmission

A Common Cold Virus Could Stifle COVID

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

There might be an unexpected benefit to the rhinovirus, or the most frequent cause of the common cold — protection against COVID, according to a study at Yale University.

Around 200 viruses cause the common cold, of which rhinovirus is the most common. Researchers found that the rhinovirus kick-starts interferon-stimulated gene activity. Within airway tissues infected with the rhinovirus, this also can halt replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Setting off these defences early in the course of COVID infection might prevent or treat the infection, said Ellen Foxman, assistant professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine and senior author of the study. One method is treating patients with interferons, an immune system protein which is also available as a drug.

“But it all depends upon the timing,” Prof Foxman clarified.

In later stages of COVID, high interferon levels correlate with worse disease and may fuel overactive immune responses, according to previous research. But recent genetic studies show that interferon-stimulated genes may actually also be protective in cases of COVID infection.

Prof Foxman’s lab wanted to study this defence system early in the course of COVID infection.

Earlier studies by the lab had shown that common cold viruses may protect against influenza, so they decided to find out whether rhinoviruses would have the same beneficial impact against the COVID virus. The researchers infected lab-grown human airway tissue with SARS-CoV-2 and found that for the first three days, viral load in the tissue doubled about every six hours. However, replication of the coronavirus was completely halted in tissue which had been exposed to rhinovirus. When antiviral defences were blocked, the SARS-CoV-2 could replicate in airway tissue previously exposed to rhinovirus.

The same defences slowed down SARS-CoV-2 infection even without rhinovirus, but only with a low infectious dose, suggesting that the viral load at the time of exposure affects whether the body can effectively fight the infection.

The researchers also studied nasal swab samples from patients diagnosed close to the start of infection. They found evidence of rapid growth of SARS-CoV-2 in the first few days of infection, followed by activation of the body’s defenses. According to their findings, the virus typically increased rapidly for the first few days of infection, before host defenses kicked in, doubling about every six hours; in some patients the virus grew even faster.

“There appears to be a viral sweet spot at the beginning of COVID, during which the virus replicates exponentially before it triggers a strong defence response,” Foxman said.

Interferon treatment is promising but could be tricky, she said, because it would be mostly effective in the days immediately after infection, when many people are asymptomatic. In theory, interferon treatment could be used prophylactically in people at high risk who have been in close contact with others diagnosed with COVID. Interferon is being trialled in COVID, and there appears to be a benefit when given early, but not late.

The study helps explain why influenza infections are lowered at times of the year when the common cold is prevalent, Prof Foxman said. The easing of social distancing measures could cause the common cold and flu viruses, which have been suppressed, to spring back with greater force. Respiratory viruses interference with each other could be a mitigating factor, creating an ‘upper limit’ on the degree to which respiratory viruses circulate together, she said.

“There are hidden interactions between viruses that we don’t quite understand, and these findings are a piece of the puzzle we are just now looking at,” Prof Foxman said.

Source: Yale University

Journal information: Cheemarla, N.R., et al. (2021) Dynamic innate immune response determines susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection and early replication kinetics. Journal of Experimental Medicine.doi.org/10.1084/jem.20210583.

Urgent Vaccine Call as COVID Closes Free State Schools

Photo by Mary Taylor from Pexels

As COVID cases and deaths continue to rise in the Free State, with schools being closed, it is unclear when the province’s teachers will receive their vaccinations.

The deaths of six learners, 75 teachers, and three support staff from COVID have been reported in the Free State since March 2020.

While teachers await their vaccines, COVID still claims lives in the school system – and not just older teachers and staff. Quincy Tsoenyane lost a daughter to COVID-related complications, 18 year-old Nomthandazo Ngcoyi, who was a learner at Lephola Secondary school in Welkom. Nomthandazo was one of 11 learners at the school who tested positive for COVID in May. Tsoenyane, who is a father to two surviving children, said it pains him to know that his daughter got sick at school.

According to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Nomthandazo developed a cough at school and was tested for COVID along with other learners. On 19 May, she tested positive and was sent home to self-isolate. She died at home six days later.

A rare case

Dr Cloete van Vuuren, an Infectious Disease Specialist in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Free State, said that Nomthandazo’s death is a rare case as it is uncommon for young people to die from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The DBE figures show that since March 2020, the Free State has recorded a total of 2101 positive cases among teachers in schools: 1377 among learners, and 461 among non-teaching staff. Outbreaks of COVID cases have forced several shutdowns of Free State schools.

Holding out for vaccines

As COVID numbers climb in Free State schools, teaching federations and unions are urging that teachers be vaccinated as soon as possible.

From 26 July, children from Grades R to 7 will return to in-person classes. In a media statement, the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) said that they are pleased to hear that the education sector will receive 500 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

However, the union said they are still in limbo because the doses must still require verification by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will expire on 28 July.

As of Thursday, there were 591 new COVID cases in Free State, with a new case incidence rate of 17.8 per 100 000 people.

Teachers need to protect themselves and others

Dr Kerrin Begg, Public Health Specialist in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town reminded teachers that although it is understandable for them to be anxious about the vaccination, each and every person has the responsibility to educate themselves.

“Teachers need to be teaching themselves about the virus just like they do in their everyday line of work of teaching children.

“At the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, we have produced school guidelines on measures to take to reduce the transmission of COVID in the school environment,” she said. She said that socialising outside of class was where most of the transmission took place, and that learners now no longer adhered to social distancing.

“We remind parents and teachers to remember that protecting themselves is not to be practiced during school hours only, but there are three major focal points of transmission which are before, during, and after school hours.

“Teachers need to understand that the environment of the classroom is very important. Fresh air is better than artificial air, outside is better than inside. Schools also need to continue to promote personal and physical distancing, and hygiene measures daily,” Dr Begg said.

Source: Spotlight

Normal Breathing Can Transport Viruses Over 2 Metres

Researchers have demonstrated that normal breathing can transport viruses in saliva droplets up a distance of up to 2.2 metres in 90 seconds.

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control recommend social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID. The distances are estimated from various studies, but there is a need for further research into how viruses are transported from one person to another. 
Previous studies considered aerosol transport after coughing or sneezing, while this study focused on normal human breathing, using computer simulations with a more realistic model than prior studies. A normal breath produces periodic jet flows that contain saliva droplets, but those jets’ velocity is less than a tenth that of a cough or sneeze.

Wearing a face mask greatly reduces the distance which these droplets can travel. Saliva droplets restricted by a mask had travelled only 0.72 metres after two minutes, far short of the distance of 1.8 metres suggested by the CDC.

The investigators found even normal breathing produces a complex field of vortices that can move saliva droplets away from the person’s mouth. The role of these vortices has not previously been understood.

Study author, Ali Khosronejad, American Institute of Physics said: “Our results show that normal breathing without a facial mask generates periodic trailing jets and leading circular vortex rings that propagate forward and interact with the vortical flow structures produced in prior breathing cycles.”

This complex vorticity field can enable the transport of aerosol droplets over long distances despite the slow speeds. A face mask serves to dissipate the kinetic energy of the jet produced by an exhaled breath, thereby disrupting the vortices and limiting the travel of virus-laden droplets.

The researchers also took into account evaporation of the saliva droplets. With no mask, they found the saliva droplets near the front of the plume of exhaled breath had partially evaporated, reaching a size of only one-tenth of a micrometre. In stagnant indoor air, it would take days for droplets this small to settle to the ground.

Masks partially redirect the exhaled breath downward, significantly restricting forward motion of the plume, so the risk of suspended droplets remaining in the air is substantially reduced.

“To simplify the breathing process, we did not consider the flow of air-saliva mixture through the nose and solely accounted for the flow through the mouth,” Khosronejad said. “In future studies, we will explore the effect of normal breathing via both the nose and mouth.”

Source: News-Medical.Net

Journal reference: Khosronejad, A., et al. (2021) A computational study of expiratory particle transport and vortex dynamics during breathing with and without face masks. Physics of Fluids. doi.org/10.1063/5.0054204.

Wastewater Analysis Shows KZN in Third Wave

Image source: CDC/Unsplash

Viral load analysis of wastewater suggests that KwaZulu-Natal may already have entered the third wave of COVID infections, according to research by DUT.

The Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology, based at DUT, has been monitoring viral loads of wastewater at the central treatment plant in eThekwini since July 2020, and found a clear correlation between clinical cases and viral loads detected in wastewater.

While clinical cases were reported to be on the increase in KZN since April 20 this year, they had found an increase in wastewater viral load some three weeks earlier.

The Institute for Water and Wastewater noted that the peak of the COVID second wave in South Africa occurred in January with an average of 40 000 cases in KwaZulu-Natal.

Over this period, the researchers measured average viral loads of 4.72 log copies per 100 millilitres at the central wastewater treatment plant. However, over the last four weeks, viral loads have averaged 5.57 log copies per 100 millilitres.

This has led the institute to suggest that there are far more cases than have been reported clinically, with a significant presence of asymptomatic individuals.

A report [PDF] on the third wave by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases indicated that there was a seroprevalence for SARS-CoV-2, a proxy for previous infection, of 30% to 40% after the third wave. This indicates that COVID infections were already widespread, and lends credence to the institute’s notion of extremely widespread asymptomatic cases. Projections for KZN showed a much lower peak for hospital admissions.

Source: Durban University of Technology

B1617 is Becoming the Globally Dominant COVID Strain

COVID cases map. Photo by Giacomo Carra on Unsplash

The B1617 variant, is becoming increasingly dominant around the world and could worsen the pandemic – especially in countries where low vaccination rates are low. This warning comes from experts in Singapore, who added that there will be more virus mutations to come.

Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said to The Straits Times: “What is frightening is the speed at which this variant is able to spread and circulate widely within the community, often surpassing the capability of contact-tracing units to track and isolate exposed contacts to break the transmission chains.

“It has the potential to unleash a bigger pandemic storm than the world has previously seen.”

Delta has mutated to be more transmissible, and may slightly weaken the protection conferred by vaccines as well as natural infection, experts said. The variant, which was first detected in India in October 2020, is now found around the world. 

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that B1617 is 1.5 times to two times more transmissible than the strain that first appeared in Wuhan 18 months ago.

It is now present in more than 50 countries and is surpassing other strains causing infections in India, such as B117 (now ‘Alpha’, commonly known as the UK variant).

“On clinical severity, it’s a little less clear because there have not been controlled studies which look at patients that you control for multiple factors, and then look at the impact of the strain on the clinical profile,” Dr Soumya said at a recent webinar.

Dr Soumya added that anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that more young people in India had been infected and developed serious illness.

In India, more than 27 million people have been infected with COVID, with over 325 000 deaths.

There are three versions of B1617 – B16171 (Kappa), B16172 (Delta) and B16173. The second version is the most relevant as it has appeared to overtake B1671/Kappa as reported globally. The third version, B16173, is rare and has not yet been given a Greek letter designation by the WHO.

On May 8, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced that it had detected five cases of the Delta variant in South Africa; three in Gauteng and two in KwaZulu–Natal. Presently, it is unclear if B1617 causes more severe illness or a higher mortality rate.

The best weapon remains widespread vaccination, Prof Teo said. Vaccinated individuals have less chance of being infected, and are much less likely to develop severe symptoms even if infected, Prof Teo added.

Preliminary US research showed that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should still be effective against B1617.

A study by Public Health England also showed that the vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca work against Delta, which has become the dominant strain in the UK.

The study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech shot was 88% effective against the Delta variant two weeks after the second dose, with a 60% effectiveness for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The pressure is to keep up with the rapidly mutating virus and immunise populations to control it. Unfortunately, most countries’s vaccination programmes are far behind.

On Friday, WHO European director Hans Kluge warned that the pandemic will not be over until at least 70% of people are vaccinated. He deplored the roll-out in Europe, saying that while it was better it was still “too slow”.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said about 43% of adults in the European Union and European Economic Area have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine as of Saturday, 29 May.

“Time is against us,” Dr Kluge warned, stressing the need to accelerate the immunisation campaign.

South Africa’s long-delayed vaccination programme is in full swing, but so far only about 1% of the population have received a jab, which is currently being administered to healthcare workers and those over 60.

Globally, the outlook does not seem good. The New York Times reported that more than 1.81 billion vaccine doses had been administered worldwide as at Friday (May 28), but a stark divide remains between countries’ vaccination programmes, with some not even reporting a single dose given.

Global inequity in vaccine supplies and distribution persists, and the opportunity for widespread vaccination remains a privilege for advanced economies, Prof Teo said.

Professor Dale Fisher, chair of the WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, said this means a higher chance of B1617 creeping into countries that had been virtually untouched by COVID.

“These countries, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, are more vulnerable due to the low vaccination rates, leaving them more susceptible to severe disease,” Prof Fisher added.

He urged wealthier nations to lend more support to the WHO-backed Covax programme, a global project to secure and distribute vaccines to poorer countries.

Source: Straits Times

Risk of COVID Infection Tripled in Healthcare Workers

Photo by Alex Mecl on Unsplash

A study of healthcare workers has shown their likelihood of being infected with COVID during the pandemic was three times higher compared to the general population, with about one in five of those infected workers being asymptomatic and unaware they had COVID.

The study also shows that it was not only frontline staff who faced the higher risk, suggesting that there was transmission between staff and within the wider community. The results are published in ERJ Open Research.

However, health care workers who had been infected were very unlikely to contract COVID a second time in the following six months.

The research was led by Professor James Chalmers, a consultant respiratory physician from the University of Dundee.

“We have always believed that front line health workers face a high risk of contracting COVID and that’s why we’ve tried to ensure they have the PPE needed to protect themselves,” said Prof Chalmers. “But many questions remain about the level of this risk and what other measures we can take to protect staff and reduce transmission of the disease.”

The study recruited 2063 staff working in a wide variety of healthcare roles in the East of Scotland. Between May and September 2020, the participants had blood tests for COVID antibodies, a very accurate indication of prior COVID infection. The researchers also recorded whether any participants developed an infection in subsequent months.

The health care workers results were compared with a randomly selected control group of blood samples taken by local GPs during the same time period.

These blood tests showed that 300 (14.5%) of the healthcare workers had been infected, a rate more than triple the proportion of people infected in the local population. The highest rates of infections among the workers were found in dentistry (26%), health care assistants (23.3%) and hospital porters (22.2%). The rate among admin staff was the same as that of doctors (21.1%).

Rates among people working in areas of the hospital where COVID patients were being treated were somewhat higher than those working in non-COVID areas (17.4% vs 13.5%). However, the majority of infections were in staff who were not working directly with COVID patients, suggesting there was transmission between staff or infections acquired in the community.

Out of the 300 healthcare workers testing positive, 56 (18.7%) did not think that they had ever caught COVID and were totally asymptomatic. This is an important finding, according to the researchers, since people without symptoms are likely to go to work, potentially infecting others.

In the months following their blood tests, 39 workers developed a symptomatic COVID infection, but only one of these was a worker who had previously tested positive. This equates to an 85% risk reduction, similar to the level of protection provided by COVID vaccines.

Prof Chalmers said: “A lot of attention during the pandemic has been around PPE for doctors and nurses but we found that dentists, healthcare assistants and porters were the staff most likely to test positive.

“We continued to monitor staff for up to seven months and found that having a positive antibody test gave 85% protection against a future infection. This is really good news for people who have already had COVID-19, as it means the chances of a second infection are very low.”

The team hopes to continue the research to see how long immunity persists and how vaccination affects infections among healthcare workers.

Professor Anita Simonds, President of the European Respiratory Society and Consultant in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at Royal Brompton Hospital, UK, was not involved in the research, offered comments.

She said: “This research shows the high levels of COVID infection among all healthcare workers, with the highest evidence of infection in dentists, healthcare assistants and porters. Staff working in critical care, who are likely to have been protected by using personal protective equipment at all times, were not disproportionately affected.

“It should be noted that among administrative staff, 21.1% were found to have been infected with COVID, indicating that all those working directly with patients, and those working in other hospital roles are at risk, and vaccination and risk assessment for appropriate levels of PPE in all these frontline groups are crucial.”

Source: European Respiratory Society

NICD Tracking Rise of COVID Cases

Following a steep rise in COVID cases in three provinces, The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) is working with teams in those areas to monitor the situation.

Increases in the Northern Cape, North West and Free State have been observed by the NICD. The Northern Cape has over 3000 active cases, the North West over 2600 and the Free State over 2200.

The NICD said that it was working with provinces to ascertain whether the rise in cases could be attributed to cluster outbreaks and has recommend increased testing and contact tracing to contain the situation.

Acting executive director of the NICD, Professor Adrian Puren, said: “We want to reassure South Africans that we are actively monitoring the situation in these provinces and will keep the community informed of any new developments.”

The NICD said that with the April school holiday season soon starting and many people making plans for travel and social gatherings, it was still vital to continue to comply with COVID preventative health measures.

Earlier this month, Discovery Health described possible scenarios for COVID in South Africa. Poor social distancing and masking behaviours, superspreader events and a lack of early vaccinations, a third wave could claim as many as 76 000 lives, the insurance company estimated. However, by maintaining good nonpharmaceutical interventions and engaging in a prompt vaccination rollout, deaths would fall to 9000 by the end of the year.

The NICD monitors the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and tests performed on a daily basis and associated resurgence metrics.

Source: Eyewitness News

Brazil P.1 Variant May Be Twice as Transmissible

Researchers have found evidence suggesting that the P.1 COVID variant could be twice as transmissible as prior strains. The findings were published in the Journal Science.

The P.1 SARS-CoV-2 variant was first detected in four travellers from Brazil during a routine screening at Haneda airport, Tokyo. Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas in Brazil was the origin of the variant. According to preliminary investigations, the virus emerged late in 2020, beginning to spread in November and then quickly became the dominant strain. This prompted many to believe that it could reinfect those infected with the initial strain.

Some 70% of the residents in the city were believed to have been infected during the initial infection period. After variant infections rose in Manaus, the P.1 variant soon spread throughout Brazil, and then to other countries—thus far, it has been detected in at least 37 countries.

The researchers used molecular clock analysis to determine that the virus had 17 identifiable mutations and that three spike protein mutations (N501Y, E484K and K417T) allowed the virus to bind more effectively to host cells. These also may help in evading antibodies, and the researchers also found that P.1 can evade immunity granted by prior strains.

In simulations, P.1 was 1.7 to 2.4 times more transmissible than the prior virus baseline, but whether this was due to longer persistence in the body or increased viral load could not be determined. Additionally, it could not be established if it increased disease severity or raised mortality rates. Though people inffected with the variant were 1.2 to 1.9 times as likely to die, this could have been a result of the severe strain the overburdened healthcare systems were experiencing in the city.

More work is needed to find out whether the P.1 strain can infect those infected with prior strains or have been vaccinated, the researchers said.

Source: Medical Xpress

Journal information: Nuno R. Faria et al. Genomics and epidemiology of the P.1 SARS-CoV-2 lineage in Manaus, Brazil, Science (2021). DOI: 10.1126/science.abh2644

Human to Pet Transmission of COVID Virus Common

Girl in a park, wearing mask with two pet dogs. Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

A US study uploaded onto the bioRxiv preprint server showed that pets with SARS-CoV-2 likely acquired the virus from humans. 

This suggests that human-animal infection may actually occur much more frequently than previously thought – implying that infected individuals should limit their contact with animals. The paper is currently available on the bioRxiv* preprint server.

Both natural and experimental infections with SARS-CoV-2 have been demonstrated in various species of pets, which includes dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, and ferrets. Hamsters, cats and ferrets have been shown to transmit the virus to each other, and dogs are still weakly susceptible to the virus. However, natural infections of pets have almost always resulted from contact with a COVID-infected person.

Since pets share so much space with humans, this is a good use of the One Health approach, a transdisciplinary collaboration aiming for health outcomes through awareness of the interconnectedness between people, animals, plants and their mutual environment.

As part of a COVID household transmission investigation, researchers in the US conducted a One Health appraisal of SARS-CoV-2 infection in pet cohabitants as one of the earliest research endeavours in assessing risk and behavioral factors shared between people and pets.

The study was conducted between April and May of 2020, and mammalian pets from households with at least one individual with confirmed COVID were eligible for inclusion. Detailed descriptions of each animal’s residence were made.

Demographic and exposure information was obtained from all household members. At the same time, the pets were tested with the use of real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) and neutralisation assays from oropharyngeal, nasal, rectal, fur, faecal, and blood samples.

The small sample size of this study made it difficult to analyse prevention measures in the home, so additional investigations are needed in order to determine the best methods to prevent human-pet COVID transmission.

All oropharyngeal, nasal, and rectal swabs from the tested animals tested negative when rRT-PCR was conducted; however, fur swabs from the one dog tested positive with the use of this molecular method at the first animal sampling. This is actually the first study to detect RNA of a virus from an animal’s fur.

Furthermore, in households where owners withs COVID lived with their pets, 20% had pets with serological evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, implying some secondary viral transmission. Four dogs and four cats from six households were found to have detectable neutralising antibodies against the virus.

In households with higher rates of human COVID infections, SARS-CoV-2 was more likely to be seen in pets, while much less common when owners limited interactions with their pets after they had developed COVID symptoms.

The authors stressed that it is still important for decision-makers to understand the role of animals in the epidemiology of the pandemic

“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence demonstrating SARS-CoV-2 transmission can occur between people and pets – most often from people to pets – and suggest this transmission may occur more frequently than previously recognized”, wrote the authors of the bioRxiv paper.

Source: News-Medical.Net

Journal information: Goryoka, G.W. et al. (2021). One Health Investigation of SARS-CoV-2 Infection and Seropositivity among Pets in Households with Confirmed Human COVID-19 Cases — Utah and Wisconsin, 2020. bioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.04.11.439379, https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.04.11.439379v1

Liquor Industry Questions Alcohol Ban Effectiveness

Representatives from the liquor industry have said that the South African government must consider data from a new report that shows little alcohol ban effectiveness on trauma cases. However, other studies show negative effects of alcohol during lockdown, and a surge in violent trauma in Cape Town after alcohol bans were lifted.

In a statement on Thursday, the South African Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) referenced a new report showing that, compared to other countries, South Africa saw similar trauma cases with its lockdown and alcohol ban to those that only had a lockdown.

The report had financial support from Distell, led by independent data expert Ian McGorian of Silver Fox Consulting, in collaboration with professor Mike Murray from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The report found that trauma cases in South Africa under lockdown dropped 60%. But other countries also saw the same drop with no alcohol ban, including the UK (57%), Ireland (62%), Italy (56.6%) and the USA (54%), casting doubt over the effectiveness of alcohol bans in curbing trauma. The researchers also commented that curfews may have explained more of a reduction in trauma cases than alcohol bans.

While members of the liquor industry recognised the impact of alcohol on South African society, they said that government needs to be more objective with its lockdown regulations.

Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi said the alcohol ban over Easter Weekend, while simultaneously allowing larger gatherings, made even less sense in reducing COVID transmission. This suggests that government was not considering science in its decision making, he said.

However, a multicentre study from Colorado, USA showed that even while trauma cases during lockdown fell by 33%, alcohol screens increased from 34% to 37%, and alcohol positive patients rose from 32% to 39%.

A study of Cape Town trauma admissions saw a dramatic drop of 53% in trauma admissions during the hard lockdown and an immediate rebound coinciding with the resumption of alcohol sales, with a 107% increase in gunshots wounds compared to pre-lockdown conditions.

The researchers noted that in South Africa the trauma demographic is much younger, with much higher rates of violence, with about half of homicide victims in SA testing positive for alcohol.

Distell chief executive Richard Rushton said the industry was merely asking that the data should be viewed objectively to improve dialogue with decision makers.

“We are all on the same side, and we want to help find solutions. We are very clear that alcohol abuse is unacceptable and causes harm. Our view is that the focus must be on finding ways to deal with high-risk drinkers, rather than using blunt instruments that penalise all South Africans.

“Any proposed new regulations need to be evidence-based, rational and target problem areas,” he said.

Business Leadership SA chief executive Busisiwe Mavuso said that lockdown could have been better managed, as 220 000 jobs had been lost along billions of rands in tax to the fiscus, while uncertainty still plagued alcohol producers.

“The decisions made to confront the health crisis should not have unintended consequences for the economy, and that is exactly what has happened with the bans on alcohol,” she said.

Mr Mavuso added that, since the start of the pandemic, business has been a willing partner to government and “needs to be part of the solution to ensure we fight this pandemic with the least possible damage to the economy”.

“The data analysis by the alcohol industry is an important intervention and must be taken seriously as we move forward.”

Source: BusinessTech