Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Globally there have been 471,468 reported cases, with 21,295 deaths. 114,642 have recovered, though 335,531 remain infected with 14,792 in serious or critical condition. South Africa has 709 confirmed cases so far, with no deaths. The number is expected to increase significantly.
- Strict limits: The Department of Trade and Industry says that strict limits will be placed on supermarkets during the lockdown, where only essential goods will be sold (food, hygiene products etc). Stores will be expected to establish distancing rules, and limit the movement of people in and out of its doors. The restrictions mean ‘general’ shopping will not be allowed. Items like cigarettes, toys and other non-essential products won’t be sold. Discussions are being held on trading hours. [Business Day]
- This is serious: Authorities are taking the coronavirus crisis very seriously, and those who step outside the line on any of the regulations will face the full force of the law. Those who have the virus and refuse treatment could face fines or six months in jail. A man who was infected and returned to work has already been charged with attempted murder. Home Affairs is opening cases against a handful of identified parties who spread fake news – and companies that are hiking prices are also facing prosecution. [EWN]
- No skop skiet and donner: Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has assured South Africans that the South African National Defence Force will not be abusing citizens or abusing their power during the lockdown. This, after fears were raised about SANDF behaviour. The minister said the army was not ‘deployed’ (which has a different legal meaning), but would be out to help the South African Police Service enforce the lockdown in a supportive role. Physical action would only be used if absolutely necessary. [TimesLive]
- Stoking fear for sales: A new investigation has found that several South African-created Facebook groups have been stoking fear and conspiracy theories around the coronavirus outbreak – and then pushing the sale of non-medical face masks. Both companies involved are based in Cape Town and were stoking fear and marketing face masks to a global audience. Facebook has removed the pages. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: In an unprecedented move, the SARB yesterday moved to deploy quantitative easing through beginning a programme of buying government bonds. This is in an effort to ramp up stimulus in response to the severe economic challenges posed by the Covid-19 breakout and the upcoming lockdown. A softer dollar offered a boost to emerging markets yesterday, and the rand continued to claw back lost ground. On Thursday the rand was at R17.38 to the dollar, R20.61 to the pound and R18.95 to the euro. [XE]
Load shedding: No load shedding is expected today, but the system is still operating under constrained conditions.