Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global coronavirus infections are approaching 5.7 million, with deaths exceeding 355,000. In South Africa, a midnight update from government showed that cases have increased by 1,466 to a total of 27,403. Deaths have increased to 577, while recoveries have also increased to 14,370, leaving the country with 12,456 active cases.
- Up in smoke: COGTA minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has made it clear that people who buy illegal cigarettes are criminals, and if they are caught doing to, the law must take its course. Smoking remains banned under lockdown level 3, which will mark nine weeks of the ban being in place. Government has submitted a 4,000 page document in court, explaining why it has done so, basing most of the decision on a few studies. The tobacco industry is continuing its legal action against the ban. [ENCA]
- Tracing issues: While the Western Cape has emerged as the country’s coronovirus epicentre, the Department of Health has identified worrying trends in the Easter Cape too. The province is home to some of the worst-hit hotspots, and unlike the Western Cape, is struggling to cope with things like contact tracing and tracking. Further, there is a backlog in testing, with some residents only getting their results 14 days after submitting them. Residents are forcing themselves to self-isolate, as government response leaves them in the lurch. [Mail & Guardian]
- Touring level 3: The tourism industry is lobbying government to allow it to open up during lockdown level 3. While travel and hospitality will be phased in for business purposes under the next phase of the lockdown, leisure and recreational travel is still banned. In fact almost all of the things the industry depends on are still prohibited, including travel between provinces (for non-essential things), sit-down restaurants and on-site consumption. The industry says if it is only allowed to operate at level 2 or 1, there may be no industry to open. [Moneyweb]
- School’s out: While the education department has continued to push for schools to re-open from 1 June for grades 7 and 12, minister Angie Motshekga says now that the department actually only expects teaching to get back to normal on the following Wednesday (3 June). She also said that schools which are not ready to resume teaching will not be forced to do so. The department has been petitioned from various sectors, including parents, unions and human rights groups, to put off the opening of schools, as the vast majority are not ready. [Times Select]
- Markets: Attention is focused on the tension between the US and China. Markets are expecting the US to sever most of its ties with Beijing following the recent security law endorsed by the Chinese government. The rand is on the back foot as market risk sentiment eroded, with the content of Trump’s address on the matter and the severity of the measures taken setting the course for the local unit. On Friday the rand is at R17.48 to the dollar, R21.55 to the pound and R19.39 to the euro. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]