Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 96.1 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.05 million. In South Africa, there have been 9,780 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,356,716. Deaths have reached 38,288 (a daily increase of 839), while recoveries have climbed to 1,144,857, leaving the country with a balance of 173,571 active cases.
- Vaccine funding: President Cyril Ramaphosa says that finding funds for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout ‘wont’s be a problem’. The president did not specify why it wouldn’t be a problem or where the money would come from, given South Africa’s dire financial state. Treasury has already spoken of tax hikes or further lending as possible funding sources, but as with the rollout plan itself, holes of information remain unfilled. [ENCA]
- Help us: Tourism groups and bodies have joined the calls for government to do something to help businesses affected by its alcohol ban and other restrictions under lockdown level 3. The Western Cape government said that it was unjust to force business to shut down without giving them any aid to weather the storm. Other business leaders have asked for clearer timelines so companies can plan around restrictions. The Tourism Business Council wants UIF TERS payments re-instated – or lockdown reversed altogether. [Moneyweb]
- Dragging feet: A leaked phone conversation between a Pfizer employee and a businessman claims that the pharmaceutical group tried to discuss Covid vaccines with the South African government for months, but was met with silence. It was only in the 11th hour when panic set in around the rollout of vaccines, that government came to the party. The employee alleges that the government was non-committal, and when it did come to the table, it was already too late. [News24 – paywall]
- Medical discrimination: After failing to block the publishing of the report, South Africa’s biggest medical aids now have to deal with the fallout of an investigation that claims they discriminate against doctors based on race. The investigation found that medical aids singled out black and Indian healthcare practitioners as more likely to commit fraud. While no evidence was found of ‘deliberate discrimination’, black professionals were still marginalised in the processes. [EWN]
- Markets: Expectations of further stimulus in the US saw the rand gain even more ground following Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen’s testimony yesterday: risk assets will once again be the destination of choice for the additional liquidity. CPI is due locally today as well as from the UK and the EU. The rand starts the day below the R15.00 to the dollar mark at R14.95, R18.15 to the euro and R20.41 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]