Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: On Monday morning, there 722,510 confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, with 33,983 deaths. 151,793 have recovered from the virus, but active cases outweigh recoveries substantially at 536,734. Of the active cases 26,681 are in serious or critical condition. South Africa has 1,280 confirmed cases, with two deaths. 31 people have recovered.
- Bright side of junk: With South Africa’s economy downgraded to junk, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance minister Tito Mboweni now have the political capital to initiate hard-hitting economic reforms, that have previously fizzled out in government’s typical thumb-twiddling. Following the downgrade, Ramaphosa, Mboweni and Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago had a late night conference call, where the president called for bold moves on structural reform. Mboweni published a wide-reaching economic plan in 2019 already. [Daily Maverick]
- Slow internet: A break on the West Africa Cable System (WACS) took place on a cable belonging to TATA between Highbridge in the UK, and Seixal in Portugal. The cable break has caused a degradation in international connectivity speeds for many Internet service providers in South Africa. A cable repair vessel is on its way to the break, and it is estimated that the repair will be completed by 4 April 2020. [MyBroadband]
- Urgent reopening: SAA will temporarily re-open and fly internationally – to help evacuate non-South Africans who are trapped in the country and could not make it back home before the lockdown. The Mail & Guardian, citing internal communications, reports that the airline is in talks with several countries over the matter. Because the airports have been shut down, they would temporarily need to open, and workers need 24 hours’ notice to return to work when needed. [Mail & Guardian]
- Flu vaccines: Compounding South Africa’s woes over the coronavirus, the Health Department says it has received a very limited stock of flu vaccines, and thus hospitals, doctors and pharmacies are under-stocked. Demand for flu shots this year are is expected to be high due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the flu season approaching. Healthcare workers will be given priority with flu vaccines, as they cannot afford to get ill at this time. [EWN]
- Markets: The recent downgrade of South Africa’s credit rating to ‘junk’ by Moody’s saw the rand come under pressure in the overnight session, weakening to a low of R18.03/$. However, the early hours of Monday morning saw China’s central bank unexpectedly add some support by cutting interest rates by 20 basis points, assisting the rand in recovering some of its earlier losses. On Monday, the rand was trading at R17.95 to the dollar, R22.23 to the pound and R19.88 to the euro. [XE]
Load shedding: Electricity demand has dropped even further since the lockdown initiated, with a drop of 7,500MW. Due to the loss of demand, load shedding is not expected at this time.