Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 86.4 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 1.87 million. In South Africa, there have been 14,410 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,127,759. Deaths have reached 30,524 (a daily increase of 513), while recoveries have climbed to 920,879, leaving the country with a balance of 176,356 active cases.
- Not urgent: Government spokesperson Phumla Williams says that there is nothing ‘urgent’ about the NCCC meeting being held today, denying that a later meeting was cancelled to make room for this one. She said that it was the first meeting of 2021, and ministers were called to report to the president about the festive season, and added that the president won’t be addressing the nation any time soon. In his last address, the president said the current lockdown would be reviewed on 15 January. [EWN]
- Vaccine: It has been confirmed that government is in discussions with local pharmaceutical giant Aspen, to try and secure Covid vaccine doses for South Africa. Aspen is part of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine production, and 300 million doses of the treatment will be produced here for global distribution. J&J has promised 50% of its doses will go to developing nations – South Africa included – but it is still in stage 3 trials and not yet rolling out. [TimesLive]
- Medical aids: Medical aid schemes are jumping on board to the proposal from government that they help co-fund and subsidise Covid vaccine efforts, saying that it is in everyone’s best interests to procure and distribute the vaccine as soon as possible. Medical aids want to work on a one-to-one procurement basis, meaning for every jab procured for a member, a surplus will be secured for non-members. The Covid-19 vaccine has also been added to the prescribed minimum benefits, so they have to be provided by medical aids, once sourced. [Daily Maverick]
- Compliance: Police minister Bheki Cele has again cracked the whip, saying that South Africans who violate lockdown level 3 regulations will be arrested. The minister is visiting several small towns and farming communities in hotspot areas, where there have been complaints about a lack of visible policing. There have been claims of people disregarding the closure of public beaches and other lockdown measures – with Cele saying that he is working with local authorities to step up policing around compliance. [ENCA]
- Markets: The rand lost over 2% against currencies on Tuesday as the first trading week for the new year brought some dollar strength. This was followed by local concerns and speculation of further lockdown restrictions that could see the domestic economy come under further strain as infections continue to mount. The rand opened the session at R14.63/$, but quickly lost ground, breaching the R15.00 mark. On Wednesday, the rand is at R15.04 to the dollar, R18.48 to the euro and R20.46 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]