Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 93.1 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 1.99 million. In South Africa, there have been 18,503 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,296,806. Deaths have reached 3,852 (a daily increase of 712), while recoveries have climbed to 1,049,740, leaving the country with a balance of 211,214 active cases.
- Level 5: Experts are calling for those in hostpot areas, particularly in Gauteng, to put themselves into a self-imposed lockdown level 5. This includes just staying at home, working from home, and only going out for essential purposes. The key is to limit interaction with other people as much as possible. Gauteng is currently right in the middle of the surge and waiting for infections in the province to peak. Authorities have been criticised for not ensuring the province was equipped to deal with the surge, despite advance warning. [TimesLive]
- Schools: The debate around the re-opening of schools amid a rapid rise of Covid-19 infections has once again flared up, repeating the same arguments from both sides of the issue, as seen last year. Unions are pushing against re-opening schools, saying with the rise in cases teachers’ health and lives are at risk. Civil groups and other educators, however, argue that it is in the best interest of pupils to get back to school as soon as possible. The NCCC has reportedly recommended that the reopening of schools be delayed to February. [ENCA]
- Hospital woes: The second wave of Covid-19 in South Africa is proving to be more harrowing for the healthcare sector, as admissions to hospitals surge, and many report record deaths. In the last week alone, over 3,600 people died, with daily deaths climbing to over 700 a day. The number of patients being put on ventilators is also rising rapidly. Worryingly, fatalities are more pronounced at public healthcare facilities, where they are struggling with beds, staff and infrastructure. [Mail & Guardian]
- Scams: The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) has issued a warning to the public to watch out for high-return scams being perpetuated on channels like WhatsApp and Facebook, where individuals ask users to invest in their companies, promising a high-return on the investment. The individuals and company that were brought to the FSCA’s attention are Hlengiwe Ngcobo and Christian Barnley Hamilton, and the company Cyber FX Investments Inc. The FSCA said these are not registered financial service providers, and follow similar patterns to MTI and BTC Global. 
- Markets: The rand continued its rally in the overnight session, clawing back significant ground and bringing much relief to importers. This comes after markets positioned themselves for a $2 trillion stimulus package expected to be announced by Biden and is combined with a dovish Fed. The added liquidity will need to find a home and risk assets are the destination of choice. The rand starts the day at R15.12 to the dollar, R18.37 to the euro and R20.68 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]