Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 18,035 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,167,497. Deaths have reached 90,137 (+21), while recoveries have climbed to 2,913,232, leaving the country with a balance of 164,128 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 27,090,975 (+12,397).
- Lockdown: Health minister Joe Phaahla says that South Africans could enjoy a lockdown-free Christmas – but only if they “stay put” and observe all Covid-19 protocols. Phaahla says that the data is “promising”, but the number of hospitalisations is only one factor that is considered when advising on lockdown restrictions, with a lot of input coming from health authorities and stakeholders. These inputs would be discussed “in a matter of days” when a clearer picture of South Africa’s festive Covid situation would be available. However, he said, right now, indications are that there may be room to work around further lockdown restrictions. [ENCA]
- Alcohol bans: Liquor traders and alcohol companies say they have been forced to start transporting their stocks in lower quantities in smaller vehicles, as they have increasingly become a big target for criminals. Alcohol bans and other restrictions on the alcohol trade in South Africa has led to a surge in depots and traders having their stock stolen by organised criminals, feeding a R20 billion illicit industry. In the last two months, the liquor industry has reported two major warehouses hit by syndicates in anticipation of possible alcohol restrictions in December. The industry has approached the courts to try and stop the government from imposing further bans. [Daily Maverick]
- Travel bans: The National Accommodation Association of South Africa said about 90% of small lodges and guest houses might soon have to shut their doors due to the number of booking cancellations. This follows the travel bans imposed by a number of countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom after the Omicron variant was detected and reported in South Africa. Just when things started looking up for the sector, with Qatar airways announcing that it would accept passengers from southern African countries again, the airline has now backpedalled on that decision. Tourism bodies say they’re expecting a bleak festive season. [EWN, TimesLive]
- Covid looting: The SIU is investigating a company that was given an open-ended contract to renovate a clinic to prepare it for Covid patients. The appointment was made without any scope for the project or any purchase order. The company involved is also currently being investigated as part of the SIU’s PPE fraud process. Several inconsistencies around final prices paid and work done were found between the company and the respective health department. Meanwhile, a top police official investigating PPE fraud and corruption at the SAPS was found to have been poisoned. At the time of his death in July, his cause of death was reported as Covid-19. [News24 – paywall 1,2]
- Markets: The South African rand firmed on Friday after US inflation data came in line with expectations, taking off worries from investors’ minds that the Federal Reserve could go for an aggressive taper plan. US consumer prices in November jumped the most in nearly four decades as the cost of goods and services rose broadly amid supply constraints but came in at 6.8% as expected by economists polled by Reuters. The Omicron variant has not led to a spike in deaths, and early anecdotal accounts suggest it may be causing mainly mild illness. This has given some respite to both the local currency and stock markets. On Monday, the rand was trading at R15.97/$, R18.03/€ and R21.15/£. [Reuters]