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 11,381 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,380,807. Deaths have reached 39,501 (a daily increase of 647), while recoveries have climbed to 1,183,443, leaving the country with a balance of 187,863 active cases.
- Alcohol ban: The sudden ban on the sale of alcohol under lockdown level 3 not only prevented people from getting their tipple, it also reportedly hit bootleggers and illicit traders, who were unable to restock from suppliers before the ban came into effect. As a result – and due to the increased policing around the alcohol ban – illicit sales have taken a hit. While some brands and alternatives are being sold on the black market, traders report a dearth in interest and supply. [TimesLive]
- Load shedding: Energy expert Chris Yelland said South Africa experienced the worst load-shedding on record in 2020 and that he expects 2021 to be even worse. He said the reality is that Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF), which is a measure of the availability of Eskom current fleet of power stations, is declining year on year. The country has already been hit by load shedding in January when demand is low. The fact that most of the lost capacity is caused by unpredictable events makes it nearly impossible for Eskom to accurately forecast load-shedding. [MyBroadband]
- Public sector: The National Planning Committee says that the argument that the public sector is bloated, and that’s what is eating away at the country’s budget, is unhelpful – as it’s not new, and doesn’t offer a viable solution. Instead, it says that the real problem around public sector wages is that personnel costs are not aligned with budgets, and that they are not tied to performance and service delivery. Government is trying to cut the wage bill in the sector, and is being met with heavy resistance from unions. [EWN]
- We need help: Doctors and nurses and other healthcare professionals are under extreme pressure in South Africa – not just physically, but mentally as well. A new investigative report has delved into how healthcare workers are coping with the second wave of Covid-19, which is being driven by a more infectious variant, leading to greater admissions and more death. The surge is taking its toll, with doctors saying they need help: more staff, and psychological support. [Bhekisisa]
- Markets: After gaining ground for the larger part of the week, the rand stumbled on Thursday night as emerging markets and risk assets ran out of stimulus steam. The local unit made its way back towards R15.00/$ in overnight trade, following a test below the R14.80 mark. The rand kicks off Friday at R14.97 to the dollar, R18.23 to the euro and R20.54 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]