Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 18,003 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 803 cases from the 17,200 cases reported on Tuesday, when the country recorded 767 new infections, whilst the highest daily total of 1,160 new infections was recorded on Sunday.

Dr Mkhize said on Wednesday (20 May), that the total number of deaths has now reached 339 – an increase of 27 deaths from 312 reported before.

The minister said that 505,861 tests have been conducted –  18,252 in the past 24 hour cycle.

He said that the total number of recoveries is at 8,950 to date.

Coronavirus cases topped 5 million globally on Wednesday, while deaths have exceeded 325,000, with nearly 2 million recoveries.

Moderna Inc’s experimental Covid-19 vaccine, the first to be tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, according to very early data released by the biotech company this week.

The data comes from eight people who took part in a 45-subject safety trial that kicked off in March.

The Moderna vaccine is one of more than 100 under development intended to protect against the novel coronavirus. Overall, the study showed the vaccine was safe and all study participants produced antibodies against the virus.

An analysis of the response in the eight individuals showed that those who received a 100 microgram dose and people who received a 25 microgram dose had levels of protective antibodies to fend of the virus that exceeded those found in the blood of people who recovered from Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Drugmakers racing to make Covid-19 vaccines and therapies are seeking out specialized manufacturers such as Moderna Inc’s partner Lonza Group AG that can scale up production to billions of doses needed to supply the world, Bloomberg said.

After the first batches of Moderna’s vaccine are produced in the US in July, Lonza expects to produce initial “commercial volumes” at a site in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in December, followed by a location in Visp, Switzerland, in February, Chairman Albert Baehny said in an interview.

Each line could make as many as 100 million doses a year, Bloomberg said.

Innovative biotechnology companies like Moderna lack the size and experience to produce in bulk, and Lonza has been contacted by scores of other developers that need its services.

“We’ve had more than 100 inquiries, maybe 120, 140, I don’t know,” Baehny said.

While Lonza has agreed with Moderna to make as many as 1 billion doses a year, Baehny said the company still can take on more production and expects to reach a few more collaboration pacts.

Job losses

The Covid-19 lockdown has had a significant impact on South Africa’s economy and will lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs losses, Gauteng premier David Makhura has said.

Presenting to the Gauteng legislature on Tuesday (19 May), Makhura said that the provincial government has developed a number of extensive models to analyse how severe job losses will be in the province.

While these models had originally shown that the province could lose around 600,000 jobs as a low-end estimate, this number has now been revised significantly upwards, he said.

“In the best-case scenario, we will have around 890,000 people losing jobs across the provincial economy.

“In a worst-case scenario, the number of jobs lost will total around two million. With the estimated number of job losses expected to reach seven million nationally, this is obviously quite severe.”

Makhura said that the government will need to introduce a special economic stimulus to help offset these job losses.

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