Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 5,372 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,829,435. Deaths have reached 83,899 (+282), while recoveries have climbed to 2,610,300, leaving the country with a balance of 135,236 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 13,892,301 (+218,650).
- Lockdown: President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to ease lockdown restrictions following consultations with the Health Department, the National Coronavirus Command Council, and other stakeholders this week – however, not all health experts are on board with the plan. Some have argued that it would be better to use the time to push for more vaccinations among the population before considering reduced restrictions. It is anticipated that South Africa will be shifted to lockdown level 2, which would allow for larger gatherings and alcohol sales on Fridays. [ENCA]
- Alcohol bans: New research from the University of Cape Town shows that full alcohol bans are effective at reducing trauma cases – while partial bans are less so. The study looked at trauma cases during South Africa’s various bans on alcohol sales, finding that the full bans during high lockdown levels reduced trauma cases and assaults. While this was undoubtedly tied to other restrictions – like bans on social gatherings and non-essential movement – the full alcohol bans during lighter restrictions (i.e., level 3) still showed a reduction of trauma cases by close to 20%. [TimesLive]
- Hospital bill: Taxpayers could be footing the bill for Jacob Zuma’s stay in private hospitals, with the correctional services department being billed almost R400,000 so far for his medical care. Prisoners are typically sent to state hospitals for medical care, but in some cases, they can use private facilities if they can afford it. As a former president, the department said that the government is considering paying his bills, which are expected to escalate. Zuma has been released on medical parole – typically reserved for those who are terminally ill. [News24 – paywall]
- Elections: The ANC says it will resort to tried-and-true campaigning methods, given that it cannot afford to splash out for the coming elections. The party said it would rely on volunteers and the council candidates to go door-to-door in communities across the country. There will be no rallies, however, due to Covid-19 restrictions on gatherings. The ANC is broke and has been unable to pay salaries and benefits. Election polls show the party has lost support, dropping below 50% in the latest Ipsos survey. The DA is also lower at 17.9%, while the EFF is up to 14.5%. [EWN, M&G]
- Markets: The South African rand fell on Tuesday, hurt by a strong dollar that was pulled higher by rising US Treasury yields, despite local gross domestic product figures coming in better than expected. Markets have already priced in delays to the US’s decision to taper its asset purchasing. They are turning their focus to central bank policy decisions and data outside the US. On Wednesday, the rand was trading at R14.31/$, R16.94/€ and R19.70/£. [Reuters]