Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 6,381 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,038,075. Deaths have reached 89,975 (+9), while recoveries have climbed to 2,861,372, leaving the country with a balance of 86,728 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 26,490,416 (+141,586).
- Blocked: The Department of Health has blocked access to vaccination data for researchers from the South African Medical Research Council, which may lead to delays in understanding how the Omicron variant – currently driving new infections in South Africa – could respond to vaccines. The blockage is reportedly due to confidentiality issues, and agreements on sharing data need to be ‘tightened’. The SAMRC needs the data to better assess the overall picture of Covid-19 and vaccines in the country, with many of its recommendations guiding the NCCC and lockdown restrictions. [BusinessLive]
- Land expropriation: Parliament will decide on Tuesday whether or not the Constitution should be amended to allow for land expropriation without compensation. A proposal to change the Constitution was adopted three years ago, but the actual process needs to be accepted by a two-thirds majority in parliament to take effect. Opposition parties have already stated that they will not support the motion, questioning whether the ANC will be able to gather enough support to execute its plans. The main question will be whether the wording of the change can appease the EFF, which has been at loggerheads with the ruling party. [ENCA]
- Respect: As many travel restrictions remain in place, president Cyril Ramaphosa has again slammed the ‘global north’s’ attitude towards southern African countries, saying that the call he received after the bans were condescending and disrespectful. Ramaphosa noted that calls from Europe were effectively one-way, with leaders telling him that the bans would remain in effect, and there was no option to give South Africa’s account of events or make a case. While these countries make assurances about partnerships, he said that the travel bans show otherwise. The president said that European countries do not offer the same level of respect given to them. [EWN]
- Raging: The organiser and founder of the cancelled Ballito and Plett Rage festivals is now blaming “the media” for ending the events. He said that the events should never have been cancelled, but the group faced pressure from politicians and parents to shut it down because of ‘panic and hysteria’ caused by news publishers. He also accused the media of spreading false information and chasing profits. The allegations come despite statements from Rage organisers themselves that the festivals were shut down due to a large number of attendees pulling out after testing positive for Covid-19 and admissions that attendees and staff on-site tested positive. [News24]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand was slightly stronger on Monday, on signs that the Omicron coronavirus variant driving a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in the country may be causing mainly mild infections. The rand sold off late last month after the variant was first detected in southern Africa, prompting countries to impose travel restrictions on the region for fear Omicron could spread quickly, even among vaccinated people. Anecdotal accounts from South African doctors and experts suggest that Omicron may be causing less severe clinical symptoms, though they caution that more research is needed. On Tuesday, the rand was at R15.88/$, R17.92/€ and R21.09/£. [Reuters]