Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global infections of the coronavirus have increased to 4,429,810, with deaths at 298,174. Recoveries have risen to 1,659,791, leaving 2,471,845 cases active, where 45,921 are considered serious or critical. In South Africa, cases are now at 12,074, with deaths hitting 219. Recoveries have also increased to 4,745, leaving 7,110 cases active.
- Lockdown level 3: President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that consultations will soon start to move ‘most of the country’ to lockdown level 3 – which will allow more people to return to work, and will see the much-requested return of alcohol sales in the country. However, the president said that not all areas will see restrictions eased. Metros and wider areas where infection rates are high will likely remain at level 4. [BusinessTech]
- Unemployment crisis: The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) says South Africa’s unemployment rate will likely hit record levels by the end of the year, with projections showing it could hit as high as 36.5% by December. This will be off the back of the country’s lockdown, which is keeping millions of people out of jobs – though it noted that at 29%, the country’s unemployment crisis was well established before the lockdown. [TimesLive]
- R350 grant: The state social security agency Sassa says that over 1 million people have applied for the R350 coronavirus grant – however as many as 60% of these applications were from people who didn’t qualify. The group also noted a lot of duplication in the processing. The grant is meant for those who are unemployed due to the coronavirus lockdown, who are not receiving any income, nor any other state grant or benefit from state funding. [ENCA]
- School’s out: While the Department of Basic Educations mulls getting kids back to school as early as June, teachers unions are uniting for a push back against any such thing. Concerns over health and safety of teachers are top of mind for the unions, who have warned minister Angie Motshekga not to jump the gun in opening schools in the country. Essential supplies, social distancing rules and appropriate screening measures need to be in place, they said, before even considering it. [Mail & Guardian]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand inched firmer on Wednesday as investors stayed optimistic about the chances for easing lockdown restrictions in some countries despite increases in new coronavirus cases. The dearth of economic data locally has capped expected gains by the rand, with the oversold levels and profit-taking on greenback not enough to push the unit past any meaningful resistance levels below R18.00. On Thursday, the rand is at R18.50 to the dollar, R22.58 to the pound and R19.99 to the euro. [XE]