Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 95.5 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.05 million. In South Africa, there have been 9,010 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,346,963. Deaths have reached 37,449 (a daily increase of 344), while recoveries have climbed to 1,117,452, leaving the country with a balance of 192,035 active cases.
- Covid variant: Scientists and researchers are campaigning against the labelling of the 501.v2 variant of Covid-19 ‘the South African variant’, as such a label is damaging and unjust. They argue that the variant could have started anywhere in the world, and can be found anywhere in the world – and the only reason the name has stuck is because South Africa has been at the forefront of analysing it. The variant has been found to be more transmissible, but there is no evidence it is more severe or deadly. [TimesLive]
- What unions want: As unions prepare to enter negotiations for the next round of public sector wage increases, they appear to be at odds with each over what it is exactly they demand. The process has been delayed by court action against the government for reneging on the final agreed-upon increase for last year. However, now some unions reportedly want to approach the negotiation table with their own set of demands, instead of reaching consensus with other unions first. Some unions may be demanding as much as a 10% increase. [EWN]
- Alcohol ban: The ban on the sale of alcohol is hitting other industries, not just breweries and liquor producers – with glass maker Consol saying it is now burning through R8 million a day, just hoping to survive long enough to see the ban through. Following in the footsteps of SAB, which pulled another R2.5 billion in investment in South Africa over the ban, Consol said that if the ban persists, job losses and disinvestment in the country is inevitable. The ban is being challenged in court, with various business groups calling for its immediate end. 
- Medical aids: The release of an interim investigative report into claims of racial discrimination from South African medical aids has been delayed, with some parties named in the report successfully blocking its release. It is said to have made adverse findings against these parties, saying that black healthcare providers were unfairly discriminated against, and there were unfair outcomes based on race. The named parties said they have not had time to review or comment on the findings, and once published, would do irreversible damage. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: The rand lost ground on Monday as the US celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, however, the losses were quickly reversed overnight. Markets have eyes on the US Capitol as they await Janet Yellen’s confirmation hearing as Treasury Secretary as she testifies regarding exchange rate policy and approaches under the new Biden rule. Data for today includes local gold and mining production, as well as Chinese FDI. The rand starts the day at R15.10 to the dollar, R18.27 to the euro and R20.56 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]