Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: The global spread of the coronavirus has hit over the 500,000 mark, with 532,263. Recoveries are standing at 124,349, but active cases still surpass at 383,824. Around 5% of all active cases (19,635) are in serious or critical condition – and sadly 24,090 people have died. South Africa has 927 confirmed cases and no deaths.
- Lockdown in effect: At the stroke of midnight, South Africans already started encountering law enforcement officials, as the country’s 21-day lockdown took effect. The SAPS are patrolling the streets with the support of the SANDF and private security. Those out after midnight were pulled over in roadblocks where they were searched, and quizzed where they were going. Alcohol was confiscated in-line with new regulations. Despite the lockdown, there are still reports of heavy traffic at the Gauteng/Limpopo provincial border. [EWN]
- D-Day for SA: It’s D-Day for South Africa, as not only is it the first day of lockdown, but Moody’s is also scheduled to announce the result of its highly anticipated credit rating review that could see South Africa be downgraded to junk status. In a research note, Moody’s said that while the global coronavirus pandemic has not yet hit Africa as hard as the rest of the world yet, African nations are at particular risk. South Africa’s economy was weak even before the outbreak, and a ratings downgrade has been expected for some time. [Peregrine, BusinessTech]
- Edcon no more?: Edcon, South Africa’s second-biggest clothing retailer, said it may not be able to re-open at the end of a three-week national shutdown to combat the coronavirus outbreak. The group has notified shareholders that like-for-like sales have dropped 45% in 2 weeks, and sales targets have missed forecasts by R400 million. A tearful CEO, Grant Pattison, said that the compnay only has enough liquidity to pay salaries – and little else. The group will loose R800 million in the lockdown, and may have to apply for bankruptcy. [Bloomberg]
- SA Express: The business rescue practitioners for smaller state-owned airline SA Express have applied for an urgent move to liquidate the company – which will shut down the business completely. In court documents, the administrators said that the airline has run out of cash, and has no reasonable prospects of being rescued. Due to the nation-wide lockdown, the application can only be heard in late April. Calculations using the companies financial statements show it owes over R2.8 billion to creditors. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: The rand is performing well against the greenback, as pressure on the dollar continues to boost the local currency. This is as a result of market hopes for more US monetary support on the back of the Fed’s pledge to apply unlimited stimulus in order to counter the impact of the virus on the US economy. However, the rand is facing some pressure against the pound and euro, as both these currencies are also receiving the benefit of a softer dollar. On Friday the rand is at R17.31 to the dollar, R21.24 to the pound and R19.17 to the euro. [XE]
Load shedding: Eskom has seen a massive decline in demand due to the nationwide lockdown, and as such does not foresee load shedding over the next 21 days. [BusinessTech]