Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global cases have passed 10.4 million confirmed since the start of the year, with the death toll now over 511,000. In South Africa, a record daily jump of 8,124 cases takes the country’s total to 159,333, with 2,749 deaths. Recoveries have increased to 76,025, leaving a balance of 80,559 active cases in the country.
- Call to reject: A group of 100 economists, academic and finance experts have called on government to outright reject finance minister Tito Mboweni’s emergency budget, calling his plan ‘economic suicide’. The experts argue that instead of budget cuts to the tune of R250 billion, government should be increasing spending at this time to invigorate the economy, which is stagnating. This spend could be funded by taxes, increased borrowing and other sources, they said, but to do what is currently planned would only shrink the economy further. [BusinessLive]
- Gauteng crisis: Health professionals in Gauteng are sounding the alarm bells over a growing Covid-19 crisis in the province, as cases rapidly increase, and not enough place or necessary supplies in hospitals. Several hospitals are reporting a shortage of oxygen supply – needed to treat severe cases – while doctors are noting slow turnaround times and errors all along the supply chain, which they say means the system is overburdened. Gauteng is fast becoming the country’s Covid-19 epicentre, with things expected to get much worse. [Daily maverick]
- Government winning: The government has won several high profile cases related to its lockdown regulations – the latest being the Constitutional Court throwing the DA’s push against out, saying it is not in the interest of justice for it to be heard. Earlier, the courts dismissed a challenge against the reopening of the economy, and the fight to unban cigarette sales. Government has also been given leave to appeal a previous court ruling that declared the lockdown regulations invalid. [ENCA]
- Insurers sweating: Virus-related insurance claims from just over 500 small South African firms battling insurers who have rejected them are worth up to R4 billion rand. They are firms in the hospitality and tourism industry now on the cusp of closure after virus restrictions brought their businesses to a standstill. Loss adjustment firm Insurance Claims Africa (ICA) is pushing a host of big South African insurers including Santam , Old Mutual, Hollard and HIC Underwriting Managers to make payouts under business interruption policies sold to its clients. [Reuters]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand firmed against a weaker dollar on Wednesday, shaking off data revealing the economy was already in contraction before the coronavirus lockdown as investors looked to pocket the rand’s high yield. The currency hit a three-session low on Tuesday after economic data showed gross domestic product had contracted for a third consecutive quarter in the first three months of the year. On Thursday, the rand was at R17.03 to the dollar, R21.27 to the pound and R19.18 to the euro. Commentary by Reuters. [XE]