Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 7,657 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 1,747,082. Deaths have reached 57,731 (+78), while recoveries have climbed to 1,606,581 leaving the country with a balance of 82,736 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 1,773,417 (+6,002).
- Lockdown: The National Coronavirus Command Council is reportedly to meet ‘soon’, with further lockdown restrictions said to be on the agenda, given the recent rise in Covid-19 cases in South Africa, putting the country into a third wave of infection. While medical and health experts are on board for tighter lockdown – asking for smaller gatherings and a longer curfew – not everyone is on board with it. The South African Council of Churches and the Gauteng Education Department have both spoken out against further restrictions , saying focus should be rather placed on problem areas. [ENCA]
- Bright outlook: Some economists are taking a more optimistic outlook on South Africa’s economic prospects for this year and the future, saying that things are better than the doom and gloom view held by many. They say the country’s economy is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic faster than expected, and even though unemployment remains at an all-time high, South Africa has managed to create many jobs for skilled professionals. All things considered, South Africa’s prospects look good, and things can only get better, they said – however, real growth requires government to come to the party with reforms to create an enabling environment. [Monewyweb]
- Vaccines: Aspen pharmaceuticals has assured president Cyril Ramaphosa that it will increase capacity and ramp up production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, after South Africa was forced to dump 2 million doses following contamination concerns. The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday ruled that a large number of Johnson & Johnson vaccines coming out of its Baltimore plant were contaminated, which resulted in 60 million doses needing to be disposed of. The dump is a blow to South Africa’s vaccine rollout, which has already made slower progress than was hoped for. The J&J doses are one-shot jabs, which government wants to use in more remote areas of South Africa. [EWN]
- Certified: Education experts say that government’s new grade 9 certificate may prove useful in gauging the level of performance for those learners – but the nature of the examinations the education department wants to set up will come at a huge monetary cost, which South Africa’s budget can’t take, especially when there are other areas in education that need to be focused on. This includes reading, writing and maths – things that learners are stumbling at as early as grade 3. Standardised exams at grade 9 level will create more work and more complexity – though the experts say it probably won’t incentivise learners to leave school either, as there is hardly any demand for grade 12 certificates in South Africa as is. [TimesLive]
- Markets: Markets were lifted on Friday, off the back of US and European central bank data pointing to looser monetary policies for the time being, spurring positive sentiment. However, despite a small boost for the rand, riding that wave, the local unit ended the week slightly weaker against the dollar, down almost 2%. The rand has been enjoying a boost from a risk-on environment favouring emerging markets, and demand for commodities as industries crawl towards pre-Covid levels. On Monday the rand is at R13.74/$, R16.62/€ and R19.38/£.