Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global coronavirus cases now total over 7.2 million confirmed, with the death toll passing 411,000. In South Africa, there were 2,430 more cases recorded, taking the total to 55,421, with deaths jumping to 1,210. Recoveries have risen to 31,505, leaving a balance of 22,706 active cases in the country.
- Reserved: Judgement has been reserved in the South African cigarette sales ban case. Free trade group FITA argued its case on Wednesday, saying that Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s reasons for the ban (to stop people smoking) was unattainable and deeply flawed, holding no scientific basis. It also pointed out that if health was the concern, other lifestyle diseases like diabetes have proven to be more dangerous during the pandemic. Government wants the courts to hand the ban back to Dlamini-Zuma for reconsideration, even if they rule against her. [ENCA]
- Who’s really in charge: In terms of the Disaster Management Act, it’s cabinet and the Disaster Management Centre and its provincial counterparts that should be managing government’s response in times of national disaster. However, both structures have been largely missing during the Covid-19 outbreak. Instead, power has been placed in the National Coronavirus Command Council, which President Cyril Ramaphosa states is just an advisory committee. Why then, is the NCCC calling all the shots? [Daily Maverick]
- Backlog: South Africa’s Covid-19 test backlog has improved slightly, but still sits at over 63,000, putting the country’s coronavirus data into question. The National Health laboratory Services says the delays are due to not having the requisite testing kits, and comes largely from the community screening process that was ordered. The outstanding tests are more than 3 days old. The NHLS says testing is now being prioritised to those with high risk medical needs, in hotspot areas like Cape Town. [TimesLive]
- Underground: Industries still blocked by lockdown restrictions are moving underground, turning into illicit trade, with business owners risking jail time just to survive. One such industry is the hair and beauty sector, which now has hairdressers having to make discreet house calls to keep money coming in. The sector was promised 2 weeks ago by government that regulations were being worked on to allow them to open up, however with no timeline given, and no changes in sight, it has now had to turn into an illicit trade. [Reuters]
- Markets: In a knee jerk reaction to the Federal Reserve statement last night, the rand reached a high of R16.38/$, as the US central bank announced that it is unlikely it would raise interest rates until 2022, given that the US recovery will take some time. The local unit failed to hold onto its gains, though, as the gloomy outlook by the Fed brought overoptimistic markets back to reality. On Thursday the rand was at R16.69 to the dollar, R21.17 to the pound and R18.94 to the euro. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]