Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global cases of Covid-19 have surpassed 20.3 million confirmed, with the death toll past 743,000. In South Africa, 2,810 new cases have been reported, taking the total to 568,919, with 11,010 deaths recorded. Recoveries have risen to 432,029, leaving the country with a balance of 125,880 active cases.
Load shedding: Eskom says that it will implement stage 2 load shedding on Thursday, starting at 08h00 and lasting until 22h00. It warned that it may be escalated to stage 3 in the evening peak.
- Level 2: While reports continue to emerge of an imminent drop to lockdown level 2 in South Africa, including the re-reopening of alcohol sales and possibly a lift on the ban on sales of tobacco products – major industry players are tight-lipped, with some saying that they have not been informed of any decision in that vein. Several recommendations are confirmed to have been made to the NCCC, pushing for further easing of lockdown restrictions. With Covid infection numbers decreasing, focus is shifting to the battered economy. [BusinessTech, EWN]
- Herd immunity: South Africa’s Covid infection rate may showing a positive turn, but health experts warn that the country is definitely not out of the woods yet. Explaining the recent break in the numbers, experts say that herd immunity may be kicking in in hotspot areas. While herd immunity is usually seen when 50% to 60% of a population are infected, South African hotspot areas are showing lower rates (30% to 40%), but still seeing some herd immunity effects, the experts said. However, this cannot be the case for the national population. [TimesLive]
- Power crisis: As load shedding strikes once again, the CSIR says that the country’s power crisis could get much worse over the next few years. The research group said that heavy load shedding will persist through to 2022, and worse yet, it will likely be three times worse than the load shedding experienced in 2019. Total power taken offline is likey to jump from 1,352GWh to 4,500GWh, it said. Mitigation of this scenario relies on effective and swift action from government. [MyBroadband]
- Reserved bank: The South African Reserve Bank is sticking to its guns on its mandate, saying inflation targeting is here to stay – and that South Africa’s economic problems stretch far beyond monetary policy. The bank has been under pressure to widen its mandate, but it is pushing back. Formally adding unemployment or economic growth to the South African central bank’s mandate would risk policy mistakes and hurting its credibility, governor Lesetja Kganyago says. [Reuters]
- Markets: The rand extended its gains against the dollar on Wednesday, as political wrangling over a stimulus package for the U.S. economy halted the U.S. currency’s rebound. The currency has been under pressure from shifts in investor appetite for emerging market assets as well as weak economic data pointing to a deep recession in South Africa in 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a slow recovery in 2021. On Thursday the rand is at R17.47 to the dollar, R20.62 to the euro and R22.81 to the pound. Commentary by Reuters. [XE]