Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 cases are now at 5.5 million with deaths at 346,000. In South Africa, cases have climbed by 649 cases to 24,264, with deaths increasing to 524. The total number of recoveries stands at 12,741, leaving the country with 10,999 active cases.
- Lockdown confusion: A presentation by health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize stated that areas defined as hotspots would remain at level 4 come 1 June 2020 – this despite the announcement from president Cyril Ramaphosa that the whole country would be moving to level 3. The health department first confirmed the point, then backtracked, saying that clarification would follow soon. In his presentation, Mkhize said that the country would be at lockdown level 3, but hotspot areas could have have added restrictions based on various interventions. [Business Day, BusinessTech]
- Cases mounting: Government is facing a slew of legal challenges relating to its handling of the nationwide lockdown – with one specifically targeting the National Coronavirus Command Council, compelling parliament to take back its Constitutional powers from the centralised structure under COGTA minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Other legal challenges are around the opening of schools, the tobacco ban, blocking NGOs from giving food to the needy, and several other ‘irrational’ regulations that have been put in place. [TimesLive]
- Schools targeted: If schools weren’t facing enough of a challenge getting children back into classrooms, the education department has noted a concerning trend of personal protective equipment meant for teachers and learners being targeted by criminals. Schools are a particular target for criminal elements, with over 2,000 schools having been vandalised during lockdown. Parents and teachers are already refusing to return to schools because of a lack of safety measures, and the theft of PPEs is now exacerbating the issue. [ENCA]
- Religious matters: President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ban on religious gatherings will be lifted at level 3, but will still be restricted to 50 people. The president urged that any religious ceremonies or rituals which put worshippers at risk be avoided, and that social distancing measures be observed at all times. Religious organisations have responded to the nationwide lockdown by moving services to radio or online. [Reuters]
- Markets: There is caution in the air as the tension between Hong Kong and China and the US makes its way to the fore, assisting the dollar to gain some momentum. The rand is holding onto its gains while looking for enough momentum to breach R17.30/$. Even though there is some caution around, sentiment has not turned risk off. On Wednesday the rand is at R17.38 to the dollar, R21.41 to the pound and R19.05 to the euro. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]