Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 13.3 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 578,000. In South Africa, there are 311,049 confirmed cases, with deaths now at 4,453. Recoveries have climbed to 160,693, leaving a balance of 145,957 active cases.
Load shedding: Stage 1 load shedding will be implemented from 09h00 on Thursday, continuing until 14h00, where it will be pushed up to stage 2 until 22h00. One generating unit has returned to service. Eskom says that it has seen a spike in demand due to extremely cold weather. Despite the cold, it urged South Africans to rather switch off heating equipment.
- Bloodbath: A new study shows that South Africa saw 3 million job losses between February and April 2020, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. A further 1.5 million people lost their incomes, through reductions or cuts, it said. Other alarming findings are that only 20% of people surveyed received any support from established support programmes, while half ran out of money to buy food in April, thrusting many into poverty. [Mail & Guardian]
- School debate: The Human Rights Commission has come out in support of South African schools staying open and more children returning, saying it supports findings from Unicef that more damage is done to children by not returning. However, president Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday the government is listening closely to calls from unions and other groups who are in favour of shutting schools down, saying that lives are more important than finishing the school year. [TimesLive, Daily Maverick]
- Reserved: Judgement has been reserved in fair trade group Fita’s application to appeal the ruling against it, in its court battle to try and get the ban on cigarette sales lifted. The group will have to wait another week to hear whether it can continue with its case, with hopes that it can take the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal. Fita is arguing that there was no rationale behind the sales ban, and that government’s evidence was too early to be conclusive. The courts dismissed the case based on Fita’s argument that cigarettes were an essential product. [Moneyweb]
- Caution: The SAA pilot’s union says that it will support the new airline being build from the ashes of SAA – as long as government keeps its promises. It said that the success of the new airline will be rooted in competent leadership being put in place; something it will be following with some caution. Despite its battle with government seeking assurances for pilots, it says that the new airline is the best direction to go in, especially in retaining jobs. [EWN]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand raced to a new one-month best on Wednesday in a broad rally by risk assets spurred by progress towards a Covid-19 vaccine. The US company Moderna has produced an experimental Covid-19 vaccine that provoked immune responses in all 45 volunteers, sparking a risk-on mood. On Thursday the rand was at R16.65 to the dollar, R20.91 to the pound and R19.00 to the euro. Commentary by Reuters. [XE]