Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 96.2 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.06 million. In South Africa, there have been 12,710 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,369,426. Deaths have reached 38,854 (a daily increase of 566), while recoveries have climbed to 1,160,412, leaving the country with a balance of 170,160 active cases.
- Return to normal: The Western Cape is arguing for a return to some semblance of normal with lockdown, saying that with the risk of future waves of Covid-19 on the cards, the country cannot afford blanket moves in and out of lockdown. The province says that the nationwide curfew should be pushed back, and alcohol sales re-opened – but with limitations – so that the economy can recovery and people can get their livelihoods back. It also wants beaches opened again. The recommendations will be made at the next NCCC meeting. [TimesLive]
- Double charge: South Africa is paying a premium for the 1.5 million Covid vaccine doses it scrambled to secure from the Serum Institute of India (SII) – more than double the same price negotiated by the EU when it went to the negotiation table in 2020. The South African government has been criticised for dragging its feet in sourcing Covid-19 vaccines, reportedly even taking months to get back to producers who tried to contact it. Government also previously complained about discounted vaccines being too expensive for the country. [BusinessLive – paywall]
- Matric results: Six of the nine provinces have concluded with the marking of matric papers, with the rest expected to be finished by Friday, the Department of Education has said. The results are on target to be captured by 25 January, with the results then expected to be passed on to Umalusi for acceptance by 12 February. The process is on track, despite complications brought about by Covid-19, where hundreds of markers tested positive for the virus. [Mail & Guardian]
- Illicit trade: An undercover investigation into the sale of illicit cigarettes in South Africa has revealed that a large number of boxes and cartons being sold in the country are being done so on the cheap – circumventing the minimum taxes required by law, and subsequently robbing the tax man. Fair trade group, FITA – some of whose member brands were fingered in the investigation – deflected the issue to ‘Big Tobacco’, and placed the blame on multinational companies. [Tax Justice South Africa, FITA]
- Markets: The rand held steady overnight, as optimism around stimulus in the US remains high. The local unit is clawing its way stronger, taking full advantage of the favourable environment. All eyes will be on the SARB today, while the ECB will also announce its interest rate decision. The US is set to release jobless claims this afternoon. The rand starts the day at R14.87 to the dollar, R18.03 to the euro and R20.34 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]