Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 4,373 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,968,052. Deaths have reached 89,843 (+21), while recoveries have climbed to 2,849,558, leaving the country with a balance of 28,651 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 25,619,891 (+171,124).
- Incentives: The Gauteng health department has doubled the incentive for people over 50 to get vaccinated against Covid-19, now offering R200 vouchers as a sweetener. The department said it is specifically targeting this group as they are most vulnerable to the virus, and they want those who have not yet received their jab because of the travel costs involved to be covered. The initiative is part of the Vooma Vaccine campaign. The vouchers are available for the first 260,000 people to get their J&J shot or the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Covid infections are surging in South Africa, with the first cases of the Omicron variant now detected in the Western Cape. [TimesLive]
- Omicron WHO: The World Health Organisation has warned that blanket travel bans will not prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. The variant has now been detected in South America. More cases appear in those with no history of international travel, implying community spread – taking place long before the variant was detected and reported in South Africa. Countries have responded to South Africa’s transparency by shutting the country out of the international community. The WHO said that this is dangerous as it incentivises countries to keep data about new variants quiet out of fear of the same treatment. [EWN]
- Mandates: Health group Discovery says that vaccine mandates work – pointing to the fact that over 94% of its staff have been vaccinated since it introduced the mandate earlier this year, from 22% before the mandate. The group said that the mandate wasn’t a threat and that tools were made available for staff to get better educated about the vaccines. At the same time, discussions and engagements took place explaining the mandate and why it was necessary. The next step in the policy isn’t simply to fire those who don’t comply, it said, but instead to engage them through the objections process. The 300-odd holdouts to the vaccine will be engaged on a one-on-one basis. 
- Prosecute now: Public interest group Accountability Now has threatened legal action against the head of the National Prosecuting Authority, alleging dereliction of duties by not pursuing high-profile cases with vigour. The group is frustrated by the lack of prosecutions against high-profile individuals like Jacob Zuma, Bheki Cele, and others complicit in sagas like state capture. It wants a court to order the NPA to prioritise these cases, or at the most extreme, to initiate a process to have the NPA separated from the state and the minister of justice, to operate as an independent Chapter 9 institution. [News24 – paywall]
- Markets: The South African rand strengthened on Tuesday, benefiting from a weaker dollar after Moderna’s chief executive said Covid-19 vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they have been with other types. Risk appetite took a beating across world markets, but a weaker dollar saw the rand trading at R16.03 against the greenback, 0.68% firmer than its previous close. The currency plunged to its weakest since October 2020 on Friday as the world reacted with alarm to the news of the new variant, Omicron, which was first detected in southern Africa. Market participants, however, remained cautious. On Wednesday, the rand was trading at R15.81/$, R17.92/€ and R21.09/£. [Reuters]