5 important things happening in South Africa today

Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:

Coronavirus: Global cases have risen to 936,204, with 47,249 deaths. 194,578 people have recovered so far, but 694,377 cases remain active, with 35,612 in serious or critical condition. In South Africa, there are 1,380 cases, with 5 recorded deaths.

  • More tests: South Africa needs to conduct “hundreds of thousands” of coronavirus tests to understand the true number of infections and halt their spread, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday.While the country has ramped up testing over the last few days since going into lockdown, the number of new cases being reported has been surprisingly low. Mkhize said officials were moving away from a testing model focused on people with symptoms to one that also targeted communities where people with mild symptoms could be slow to seek medical help. [Reuters]

  • Tax stats: The South African Revenue Service (Sars) collected R1.4 trillion in tax revenue during the 2019/2020 tax year, up 5.3% on the year before, despite the country entering into recession. However, the revenue services noted more than R100 billion in uncollected taxes due to non-compliance, aggressive tax planning and VAT fraud. Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter said R60 billion was lost due to the declining economy, but there is still room to chase those who are non-compliant for a revenue boost. [702]

  • Smoking issue: NGOs are calling for the sale of alcohol and cigarettes to be allowed in South Africa, over concerns how the ban is affecting addicts, the vulnerable who could not afford to stockpile, and how it is boosting the black markets. The Western Cape has softened the ban somewhat, allowing cigarettes to be sold as long as they are purchased with essential goods – but on a national level, the government has not budged. [Mail & Guardian, MyBroadband]

  • Reverse: Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has back-tracked on his previous declaration that taxis could run at full capacity as long as everyone is wearing a face mask. Following public outcry over the move, the minister has reversed, and now by law, these forms of public transport can only operate at 70% capacity. This means 15-seater taxis are only allowed to ferry 10 people at a time and midibuses with a 22-seater capacity are limited to a maximum of 15 passengers. [EWN]

  • Markets: The dollar strengthened yet again yesterday, as renewed fears surrounding the performance of the global economy saw investors rush to safe havens. Having tested the level since Monday, this momentum to the downside finally pushed the ZAR well above the R18.00/$ mark. Meanwhile, IMF and World Bank funding is rapidly becoming a reality. On Thursday, the rand was trading at R18.22 to the dollar, R22.57 to the pound and R19.24 to the euro. [XE]

Load shedding: Eskom has suspended daily notices until the country exits lockdown and demand increases. Load shedding is not expected during the lockdown.

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5 important things happening in South Africa today