Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 2,858 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,961,406. Deaths have reached 89,797 (+6), while recoveries have climbed to 2,847,771, leaving the country with a balance of 23,838 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 25,288,417 (+13,528).
- Vaccine mandates: A growing list of scientists and health experts are calling for vaccine mandates for certain public spaces in a bid to get vaccination numbers up and mitigate the loss of life in the looming fourth wave of Covid-19. The Scientist Collective, comprising 22 professors and doctors, says that the government needs to act now to save lives. Among the suggestions – which include preparing health facilities and making access to vaccines easier – it suggests that public facilities like taxis, restaurants, and places of worship require a vaccine passport. Companies should also now more seriously consider mandates, it said. [Daily Maverick]
- Stranded: The near-global ban on travel to and from South Africa over fears of the Omicron variant has left the local hospitality industry reeling. Not only has it done untold damage to many local businesses that would have benefitted from tourism over the festive season, but its sudden onset has also left South Africans abroad stranded. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation is working on getting stranded citizens home, but it is proving a challenge as flights have been suspended. South Africans have been left stranded in many European countries and even Mauritius. Many others are stuck at home after making plans to visit family abroad. [News24, TimesLive]
- Mess: International investors in the rail sector in South Africa have threatened to disinvest from the country because of “the mess” at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa). The government has warned that international players are ready to close up shop in South Africa as Prasa has failed to get its affairs in order, including contracts and tenders, and cut back its wasteful and irregular spending. The companies looking to leave are involved in overhaul contracts, but Prasa has failed to issue any, meaning there is little reason for these companies to stick around. South Africa stands to lose billions of rands in investment. [Moneyweb]
- Blame game: The South African National Editors’ Forum has hit back at the ANC’s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, for blaming the news coverage of the SABC for the party’s massive drop in support during the 2021 local elections. Mbalula accused the SABC of only focusing on the negative news around the ANC, leading to a low turnout to the polls in support of the party. Sanef dismissed Mbalula’s claims as baseless, saying that the politician thinks the public broadcaster is a public relations arm of the party. Mbalula’s accusations came after addressing the media, saying that ‘the blame game doesn’t help‘. [EWN]
- Markets: The rand weakened by 50 cents versus the US dollar last week. The weakness comes amid concerns about the new Omicron Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa and on the back of the strong dollar and broader negative sentiment around emerging market currencies. Furthermore, South Africa’s exports are coming off the boil after a stellar year of commodity sales, which have supported the rand. On Monday, the rand was trading at R16.16/$, R18.22/€ and R21.54/£. [Citadel]