Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 24.2 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 826,000. In South Africa, there have been 2,585 new cases, taking the total reported to 618,286. Deaths have reached 13,628 (an increase of 126), while recoveries have climbed to 531,338, leaving the country with a balance of 73,320 active cases.
- Out of time: South Africa is expected to hit its ‘fiscal cliff’ within months, according to historian and analyst RW Johnson, with government currently spending R50 billion a month more than it gets in. Finance minister Tito Mboweni’s mid-term budget is seen as a vital intersection point between the economic reality of the country, and the government’s failing policies, which are deadlocked in political manoeuvring within the ANC. Johnson says the country will likely hit a spending wall in 2021. [Moneyweb]
- Tighter controls: The Ministerial Advice Committee on Covid-19 has recommended to government that measures be taken to curb alcohol abuse even after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed. The group noted that alcohol places a major burden on South Africa’s healthcare systems, and that controls need to be put in place to deter abuse. This could take the form of higher taxes for both alcohol and tobacco products, or limiting access further through legislation not linked to Covid-19. [TimesLive]
- Corruption: The ANC’s NEC will start meetings today, homing in on allegations of corruption against its members. According to reports, the plan is for the ANC’s integrity committee to ask members accused of corruption to step down or step aside. However, the scope of this remains to be seen. Zandile Gumede, Bongani Bongo and Andile Lungisa – who all face charges of corruption – are reportedly in the firing line. [Daily Maverick]
- Covid treatment trial: Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital has started a new trial for a potential treatment of Covid-19. Some 900 volunteers will be testing anti-diarrhoea drug nitazoxanide as a potential way to relieve some Covid symptoms. According to the hospital, the drug has show to reduce the duration of flu when used in early treatment. The trial is being co-funded by the SA Medical Research Council and Xylomed Pharmaceuticals. [Business Day]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand weakened on Thursday as the dollar gained after the Federal Reserve said it would roll out an aggressive new strategy that aims to lift US employment and inflation. The rand’s weakness also comes as the latest local consumer and producer inflation figures show an uptick in prices, but not by enough to dampen expectations of further monetary policy easing. On Friday, the rand is at R16.96 to the dollar, R22.50 to the pound and R20.15 to the euro. Commentary by Reuters. [XE]