Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit over 85.1 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 1.84 million. In South Africa, there have been 11,859 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,100,748. Deaths have reached 29,577 (a daily increase of 402), while recoveries have climbed to 903,679, leaving the country with a balance of 167,429 active cases.
- Matric results: Marking of matric papers will commence from today, with 45,000 markers expected to grade over 1 million papers at 180 marking centres. Minister of education Angie Motshekga has outlined the strict Covid-19 guidelines that need to be followed, given the level 3 lockdown in effect. Investigations into the leaked matric maths and science papers are ongoing. Quality assurer Umalusi is set to make a declaration on the fairness of the exams on 15 February, which would then be followed by the results being released on 22 February. [Enca]
- Alcohol ban: Health officials are declaring the alcohol ban under lockdown level 3 a victory, with hospitals seeing fewer trauma cases, and some – such as Baragwanath – making history with no alcohol-related trauma cases on New Year’s Day. Government officials have also promised to go after those who are still flouting the ban, particularly informal traders and those transporting alcohol from place to place. Police have already arrested those caught in roadblocks with alcohol in their vehicles. [TimesLive, 702]
- Corruption: On the surface it appears as if president Cyril Ramaphosa’s fight against corruption is paying dividends, with cases closed by the SIU quadrupling in the 2020/21 period versus the 2019/20 period. However, these figures were boosted significantly by the ‘new’ PPE contract corruption that blossomed during the Covid-19 pandemic – while no significant arrests have been made related to state capture and other, more pronounced types of state corruption being investigated over the last few years. [EWN]
- Business blues: Businesses are worried about the year ahead, as 2021 kicked off with a whimper, rather than the usual bang. Concerns over the latest level 3 lockdown, as well as uncertainty around the local sourcing and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine, are keeping outlooks muted – while extended business closures and poorer than expected sales and economic participation over December will be a black mark in many financial reports in the coming months. [Moneyweb]
- Markets: The rand closed out 2020 close to where it started the year, trading around the R14.60 mark. It has started 2021 trading flat, currently at R14.63 to the dollar. Like most emerging market currencies the rand was buoyed by the victory of Joe Biden in the US presidential election, and swept up by positive sentiment in the markets over a Covid-19 vaccine – both of which overshadowed local economic woes. On Monday, the rand was trading at R14.63 to the dollar, R17.92 to the euro, and R20.02 to the pound. [XE]