2020 marks the second edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science South African National Young Talents Programme. The programme supports young female scientists and rewards scientific excellence. Created in 1998 and led by the Fondation L’Oréal in partnership with UNESCO, the For Women in Science programme aims to improve the representation of women in scientific careers, strong in the conviction that the world needs science, and science needs women.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have wide spread impact globally and we all had to adjust to the “new normal”. Ultimately, science will provide solutions for many of the unprecedented challenges that the world is currently facing. This is why L’Oréal and UNESCO have been empowering young female scientists for 22 years, more than 3,400 researchers from 118 countries have been supported and recognized.” explains Gilles Antoine, Country Manager of L’Oréal South Africa.
“Women in science have the power to change the world provided they are given the means and support. This year, as we honour six emerging women scientists from across South Africa, we reaffirm our commitment to supporting young women scientists, who are at the helm of very important research projects,” he concludes.
The challenges humanity is currently facing are unprecedented in scale. It is clear that science is and will be one of the keys that enable us to address them, as it always has been at important moments in history.
AN EXCEPTIONAL INITIATIVE TO EMPOWER SIX YOUNG SOUTH AFRICAN RESEARCHERS
The six female researchers, three doctoral and three post-doctoral were selected from over 150 applicants, by a jury of independent experts.
Click HERE to discover the 2020 award winners
Each post-doctoral award winner will receive a research grant of R160 000
Dr. Simone Richardson
National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)
Antibody Immunity Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand
Dr. Richardson is investigating how diverse antibody functions that target and eliminate infected cells can be harnessed to protect against COVID-19 in HIV infected individuals. This is crucial to understand for COVID-19 vaccine design and efficacy in South Africa.
Dr. Vundli Ramokolo
Health Systems Research Unit/Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, South African Medical Research Council
Dr. Ramokolo’s research explores what factors make some children – such as those that are affected by HIV and those that live in impoverished households – more vulnerable to poor health outcomes.
Dr. Charissa Naidoo
Clinical Mycobacteriology & Epidemiology (CLIME), Stellenbosch University
Dr. Naidoo’s research shows how – even before antibiotic treatment – patients with TB have a unique gut microbiome: this could lead to innovative diagnosis tools and more accessible treatments.
Each PhD candidate will receive a research grant of R80 000
Institute of Applied Materials, University of Pretoria
In the field of renewable energy Bianca Gevers’ research focuses on material development for photocatalytic water-splitting: the use of sunlight to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water, using photo-active catalysts.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
Sibongile’s research could potentially lead to the local establishment of liver models that represent Sub-Saharan Africa, and fulfil the essential need for diverse representation in pre-clinical research.
Human Variation and Identification Research Unit, School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand
Kimberleigh seeks to establish why people suffer from knee injuries, pain and osteoarthritis. Her research looks to answer this question by looking at the trabecular or spongey bone of the patellofemoral joint (between the bottom part of your thigh and your kneecap).
Booklet with more details details regarding For Women in Science (FWIS)can be accessed HERE
As at 00h01 on 31 March 2020, the Western Cape had recorded 348 cases of COVID-19 across the province.
Sub District Breakdown (Cape Town metro):
Sub-district breakdown (Non-metro):
SASSA grants:Not allocated by address: 3
Sunday was the first day that we provided lower level data and some processing errors occurred in the way that data was allocated to various sub-districts- specifically Swellendam, Bitou and Knysna. These errors have been corrected in today's data and we apologise for any inconvenience or concern caused.
We currently have 13 people in hospital, with three patients being treated in ICU.
We can also confirm today that 50 people who previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the City of Cape Town, have fully recovered from their symptoms. All of them have completed their 14 day period of self-isolation, and can now, in accordance with guidelines set out by the NICD, leave isolation. They are now in the same scenario as all other members of the public, in that they are required to obey the lockdown laws, but can leave their homes for necessities such as medical care, food, cash and to collect grants, only.
Since yesterday, we have seen long queues for the collection of social grants in supermarkets and shops. We are therefore calling on members of the public who are not collecting grants, to refrain from shopping over the next few days unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. This will help to minimize crowds and queues and ensure that grant recipients including the elderly and disabled, are not put at unnecessary risk.
The Western Cape Government is working around the clock to ensure that we can mitigate the impact of this virus. Communities have a critically important role to play in protecting themselves and those most vulnerable from COVID-19 infection. By ensuring that we stay inside, and limit contact with other people when it is necessary to go out, we will be able to flatten the curve of infections and ensure our health services are not overwhelmed. This will allow us to ensure that those who are sick, are able to receive the care they need.
It came to our attention today that the Bo-Kaap community has established their own COVID-19 response team. This team, together with proactive and open family of a patient, was able to alert the community to a positive test in a way that was informative, and did not stigmatise the illness. Their efforts could also support us to trace close contacts and ensure they self-isolate. This kind of response team can only work if the messaging is responsible, caring and shared on a voluntary basis, and we would like to thank them for this.
We also call on communities to support our #ThankYouWC campaign aimed at celebrating those essential service workers, from the doctors and nurses at the frontline of our response, to the supermarket staff, farmworkers, law enforcement and all of the other men and women who go to work every day to ensure we are able to get through this pandemic. We thank you for your service.
Residents are asked to hang a flag or a colourful piece of cloth from their doors and windows as a show of support and solidarity in neighbourhoods.
Today (27 March), South Africa has 1170 confirmed cases. This is an increase of 243 new cases from Thursday’s announcement.
The total number of tests conducted to date is 28 537.
This morning we reported that two deaths had occurred as a result of the COVID-19 virus. The first patient was a 48 year old female who tested positive for COVID-19 on the 23rd March 2020. She was suffering from pulmonary embolism. This means she had an underlying disease.
The second patient who died was a suspected case based on her clinical presentation. The clinicians who were treating her have reported to us that this was a 28 year old female who had presented at the hospital in respiratory distress. At the time of presentation she was hypoxic. She was intubated and transferred to hospital during the early hours of this morning, (ie 27 March 2020 at 3am). On arrival in ICU, she was declared dead. The clinical picture was suggestive of COVID-19 and therefore a test was conducted. Her laboratory results have since been received at 17:20 and were confirmed negative. Her immediate family was also tested and they are also negative. She is therefore no longer considered a COVID-19 case.
This therefore means there is only one confirmed death caused by COVID-19 in South Africa.
I have been informed that the health workers that managed this patient have been debriefed and counselled. I am aware that the public interest around COVID-19 may end up making them feel like they did not perform their duties with outmost care. As a clinician myself, I want reassure them that making such a diagnosis on presentation is line with our plea to them to keep a high index of suspicion so as not to miss a diagnosis of COVID-19. This is common practice, medical doctors often make a diagnosis based on a clinical presentation and physical examination of a patient. They then conduct further tests to confirm or disprove the diagnosis. In this instance, doctors and all health workers involved exercised clinical judgment and took extra precaution in managing this patient. We support this approach.
I therefore want to acknowledge and appreciate all our doctors, nurses and all the health workers who were treating these patients. We salute them for their dedication in the service of the nation. We urge them to remain courageous and focused. We also want to assure all our health workers in the country, who remain in the frontline of this pandemic, as the Department of Health and government as a whole, we will do everything in our powers to provide the support required for them to execute their duties. Overwhelming as circumstances may be, we ask you to keep up the fight. This is only the beginning and your commitment assures us that we will overcome.
To give a synopsis of what is currently occurring in the country in relation to confirmed COVID-19 patients:
- Total number of patients in hospitals (both public and private) : 55
- Total number of patients in ICU : 4
- Total number of patients in ventilation : 3
- Total number of recoveries : 31
- Contacts of the patients that have been identified : 4407
- Contacts of the patients that have been traced : 3465
CLINICAL OBSERVATIONS WE HAVE MADE THAT ARE OF CONCERN:
1. The infection of people with underlying concomitant diseases is increasing. This is well illustrated by the COVID-19 patient that has passed away in the Western Cape.
We therefore urge our citizens to be vigilant, protect themselves and not unnecessarily expose themselves by making contact with a lot of people. It is important to remain in
your home, create a distance between yourself and anyone, including family members, that are unwell.
These are some of the underlying medical diseases that make people vulnerable:
- HIV Positive people with a low CD4 count: This therefore emphasises the importance everyone to know their status, get tested and immediately start treatment should they test positive.
- Chronic Lung Diseases, including TB, Asthma and COPD
- Auto Immune Diseases of Any Kind
- Chronic Kidney Diseases
2. Other population groups that are vulnerable are:
- Smokers & dependant alcohol consumers. We encourage smokers to quit smoking and for those who drink alcohol, to do so moderately.
3. The elderly population in our society is vulnerable. To illustrate this, in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the confirmed cases is an 81 year old female who is now in ICU and in a ventilator. She initially presented with pneumonia and was admitted and treated as such. Because of the severity of the pneumonia, she was tested for COVID-19 and was confirmed. This elderly woman lives in an old age home. As a result, all other elderly people from this old age home are regarded as being vulnerable and are being tested. Those who will test positive will then be put in isolation.
4. There is an increase in the rate of internal transmissions. Patients without a history of travelling abroad have been detected in many provinces. The Free State province is such an example. The majority of 61 patients infected arose from the church conference which had five international visitors who
subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Amongst these, were various local church leaders who have since tested positive for COVID 19, thus making their own church members direct contacts. These church members have had to be screened and tested. The church leaders and members who were tested have since been put in quarantine.
It must be noted that these confirmed cases in the Free State province are concentrated in Mangaung and this requires dedicated focus of interventions.
All the above factors have emphasised the need to rapidly expand testing, early detection and early treatment. We are intensifying the offensive.
5. TESTING FACILITIES & BACKLOG IN PROCESSING TESTS:
We are aware that there is a significant backlog especially from some private laboratories due to pressure caused by the increasing workload.
We are pleased that the National Health Laboratory Services has increased its testing facilities. There are five laboratories in our academic hospitals in the country. These are in Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, Charlotte Maxeke, Universitas, Tygerberg and Groote Schuur, in addition to the laboratory at the NICD, which is the reference laboratory. We are now extending them to Tshwane Academic, Walter Sisulu and Port Elizabeth.
We have 7 mobile testing laboratories and in April we will have a total of 47 which will spread all over the country. By the end of April, we will be able to do 30 000 tests per day if required and we continue to source suppliers of test kits from different suppliers so that we can meet the demand.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION INFORMATION SHARING MEETING WITH MINISTERS OF HEALTH
This afternoon, the WHO hosted an information sharing virtual meeting with Ministers of Health from all over the world. This follows the G20 leaders virtual meeting that His Excellency, President MC Ramaphosa attended yesterday with other world leaders.
Various informative presentations were conducted by the WHO and different countries. A series of questions that we had as Health Ministers were also responded to. It is
clear that this pandemic is a major threat to all countries and we must join our hands together to fight it.
One of the important factors confirmed in this meeting is that there is no proven therapy for COVID-19. At this stage, there is ongoing therapeutic research and vaccine trials at different stages of progress. There are 50 different candidates of vaccines that are in their early stages. The WHO estimated that it may take a minimum of 18 months to have a vaccine that is confirmed. South African institutions are also participating in the global research program in search of a solution to the COVID-19, under the guidance of WHO.
Dr Zwelini Mkhize
Minister of Health
South Africa on Monday issued a cholera alert following an outbreak in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
“There is a significant risk that travellers from the outbreak-affected area may present with cholera in South Africa,’’ the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said.
Healthcare workers countrywide, especially those in Limpopo Province which borders Zimbabwe, should be on high alert for suspected cholera cases, the NICD said.
It urged the public, especially those living in close proximity to the border with Zimbabwe, to use safe water and practice good hygiene to reduce the risk of cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases.
According to the World Health Organisation as of Sept. 11, almost 2,000 suspected cholera cases, including 24 deaths, were reported in Zimbabwe.
The outbreak is linked to inadequate supply of safe piped water and subsequent use of unsafe water supplies, including boreholes and wells.
As of Sept. 13, there are no confirmed or suspected cases of cholera in South Africa, the NICD said.
However, 16 people have died in the past week from a suspected cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe that has now spread to the Midlands province.
Although cholera cases hit Zimbabwe almost yearly, many families still bear the scars of a cholera outbreak between Aug. 2008 and June 2009, when 98,596 cases of cholera were reported, resulting in 4,369 deaths across the country.
Edited by: Fatima Sule/Silas Nwoha
South African health authorities on Thursday issued a malaria alert amida rising risk of acquiring the disease both in and outside the country.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said the total number of malaria cases has increased
in three malaria-affected areas — northeastern Limpopo, eastern Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal.
NICD said some of the patients are likely to be travellers returning from neighboring countries, particularly
The institute did not give the specific number of malaria cases.
Th NICD said with the recent Easter holidays and an upcoming weekend, a substantial proportion of the South
South Africa has pledged to eliminate malaria by 2018.
Malaria in the country is seasonal, with transmission occurring between September and May in geographical areas
of Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provinces.
A listeriosis outbreak, believed to be the world’s largest, has claimed 172 lives in South Africa, the Department of Health said on Thursday.
As of Feb. 20, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) has reported 915 laboratory-confirmed cases of listeriosis, the department said in its latest update on the pandemic that has gripped the country since January 2017.
According to media reports, 57 people lost their lives recently.
“Unfortunately, the source of the outbreak still remains unknown.
“Specialised tests are being conducted by experts at the NICD laboratories to assist in detecting the source as soon as possible,’’ the department said.
Listeriosis is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium, listeria monocytogenes, which can be found in soil, water and vegetation.
Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources.
Symptoms from the food-borne disease include diarrhea, fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness.
Although anyone can get listeriosis, those at high risk of developing severe disease include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weak immunity.
Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu
The death toll from an outbreak of listeriosis (food poisoning) has risen to 41 in South Africa, health authorities said on Monday.
Listeriosis is food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) bacterium.
Although anyone can get listeriosis, those at high risk of developing severe disease include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and persons with weak immunity.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), five more deaths were reported recently, all in the drought-stricken Western Cape Province including three adults and two newborns.
Early this month, the NICD had first reported 36 deaths out of the 557 laboratory confirmed cases since the beginning of this year.
The country normally records 60 to 80 cases a year.
In the Western Cape Province alone, 71 cases had been detected by November this year, the NICD said.
The relentless drought in the Western Cape Province has made the fight against the food-borne disease ever more challenging, said the NICD.
The other eight provinces have also been affected by the outbreak.
“The announcement of the outbreak, every province has mobilised their provincial outbreak response team structures in support of the national anti-listeriosis activities,’’ the NICD said.
Health authorities are scrambling to identify the sources of contamination.
There are four possible sources of listeriosis in general, which include farms, food processing plants, retail shops and food preparations at home, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said earlier.
Listeriosis is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease which is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation, animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables.
Symtoms from the food-borne disease include diarrhea, fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness.
Edited by: Celine-Damilola Oyewole/Sadiya Hamza