Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 85.6 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 1.85 million. In South Africa, there have been 12,601 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,113,349. Deaths have reached 30,011 (a daily increase of 434), while recoveries have climbed to 911,573, leaving the country with a balance of 171,765 active cases.
- Vaccine: There is growing criticism over the South Africa government’s handling of the Covid-19 vaccine procurement, with assurances and promises by officials seemingly falling on deaf ears. The entire presentation by health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on South Africa’s vaccine rollout plan has been described as overly general, and lacking any detail – something which has become standard for any government plans to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. The current plan is pinned on hopes and intentions, with little concrete to go on. [Daily Maverick]
- Tobacco ban: Government will appeal a High Court ruling that instituting a tobacco ban in the country under lockdown was unconstitutional. The courts held that removing access to tobacco and vaping products infringed on smokers’ rights to dignity. Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is appealing on the grounds that a different court ruled in government’s favour in a similar case. Dlamini-Zuma implemented the ban on the basis that it would save lives. [TimesLive]
- Electricity problems: The national grid is once again under severe strain, this time after Eskom took one unit at Koeberg offline prematurely for planned maintenance, due to a leak at one of the steam generators. The unit will only return to service in May 2021. The unit going offline has created a 900MW shortfall in generation, which increases the likelihood of load shedding making a return. Aside from a couple of overnight sessions, load shedding has been kept at bay in recent months through targetted load reduction in problem areas. [Moneyweb]
- Matric marking: Marking of the matric papers could take longer than the allotted 18 days, with lockdown level 3 restrictions throwing a spanner in the works. Fewer markers are allowed at venues at any given time, and the need for sanitisation and venue inspections have also delayed the process. A delay will have a knock-on effect to other parts of the process, up to and including the validation by Umalusi, and the announcement of the results by the minister. [Enca]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand kicked off 2021 on a strong note in Monday trade, as investors pinned their hopes on a Covid-19 vaccination programme, while firmer commodity prices lifted stocks. The currency is riding the wave of positive sentiment, despite growing criticism over the government’s handling of the vaccinations. On Tuesday the rand was at R14.66 to the dollar, R17.99 to the euro and R19.93 to the pound. [XE]