Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit over 100 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.16 million. In South Africa, there have been 7,070 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,430,648. Deaths have reached 42,550 (a daily increase of (753), while recoveries have climbed to 1,263,476, leaving the country with a balance of 124,622 active cases.
- Vaccine landing: South Africa’s first batch of Covid-19 vaccines will be landing in the country on Monday, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says, with the doses being in specialised quarantine undergoing a quality assurance process for 10-14 days. This means that the first phase of government’s inoculation plan will begin in the middle of February. The first phase is targetting doses for South Africa’s 1.25 million health workers. [EWN]
- Alcohol ban: South Africa’s ban on the sale of alcohol continues to ripple through the economy, with barley farmers, reliant on beer production, facing crisis as unused stock sits in storage, and another harvest on the way. A group representing 2,000 players in the wine industry, meanwhile, is taking government to court over the ban – adding to the legal woes cabinet is facing. Businesses and stakeholders in the industry are calling for an immediate lifting of the ban, with job losses and business closures already happening. [ENCA, 702]
- Ivermectin: Health regulator SAHPRA is approving parasitic treatment drug Ivermectin for ‘controlled, compassionate’ use in Covid-19 cases in South Africa. The body has found a middle-ground over the drug to meet demands from healthcare professionals who want to use it to help treat Covid patients. The drug – mainly prescribed to animals – is still not registered and fully approved for human use in SA, but SAHPRA is building a framework where doctors can apply to prescribe it, and take full responsibility for the consequences. [Daily Maverick]
- Electricity pricing: Eskom wants to make big changes to its pricing structure as it faces more problems around tariffs – citing a new report that shows it stands to lose over R4 billion as consumers move to solar power over time. Broadly, it wants to change peak pricing, where 80% of its sales are made; it wants to get rid of the incline pricing that has been confusing prepaid customers for years; and it wants to introduce a tariff for households that want to sell excess solar power back to the grid. [Moneyweb]
- Markets: The US Fed kept interest rates on hold last night, seeing the dollar gain back some ground as a correction away from risk assets towards safe haven assets took place. Remarks by an ECB member that interest rates could be cut further to support the economy also saw the euro come under pressure. Local PPI is due today, followed by EU sentiment numbers and US jobless claims. The rand tracked the euro weaker, starting the day at R15.29 to the dollar, R18.49 to the euro and R20.90 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]