Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 24,785 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,255,816. Deaths have reached 90,262 (+36), while recoveries have climbed to 2,954,919, leaving the country with a balance of 210,635 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 27,422,495 (+15,095).
- Level 1: The National Coronavirus Command Council said that it has recommended that South Africa remain on level 1 lockdown for now, despite the rising cases of infections in the country. The NCCC acknowledged that the country was now in a fourth wave of infection and so appealed to South Africans to remember the basics of prevention, including social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitisation, and avoiding large gatherings. The health department appealed to those who are yet to be vaccinated to go out and get the jab to be protected over the festive period. 
- Backlog: There’s a backlog of over 380,000 driving licence cards because the machine needed to print them has broken down. The Department of Transport blames the breakdown on flooding coming from an adjacent building. This caused an electrical surge that damaged the machine. The department denied that the breakdown had anything to do with failed maintenance, saying that the machine was last serviced in October 2021. It is the only machine in the country that can produce driving licence cards. There is no ETA on when it will be repaired, but the department said it could process 300,000 cards in a month, so it is confident it can address the backlog with haste. [Moneyweb]
- Booster: New studies around the Omicron variant show that the virus can break through vaccine defences, including booster shots. A small local study, currently under peer review, was conducted on seven German tourists who had some form of vaccination, five of which had various boosters. The study showed that people could get symptomatically infected by Omicron even with booster protection. This aligns with data from Discovery, which found that Pfizer vaccines were only 33% effective against preventing infection – however, vaccination is still the best defence to prevent hospitalisations and severe infection. [TimesLive]
- Zuma riots: The ANC in KwaZulu Natal says that there won’t be a repeat of the July riots, which followed a court ruling sending Jacob Zuma to jail for being in contempt of the Constitutional Court. A ruling this week overturned Zuma’s medical parole, sparking fears that his supporters would again try to provoke riots, especially in KZN. Over 300 people were killed in the July riots, and more than R50 billion of economic damage was done. The ANC said it would be engaging with communities in the province to get ahead of any unrest that may be brewing. [EWN]
- Markets: The South African rand extended this week’s losses on Wednesday, as surging Covid-19 infections locally and a US Federal Reserve policy announcement later in the day sapped risk appetite. Thursday was a public holiday in South Africa. The NICD recorded the highest number of daily Covid infections since the pandemic started. Markets were already skittish in the days leading up to this. Earlier on Wednesday, data showed annual consumer inflation accelerated to 5.5% in November from 5.0% in October, slightly ahead of economists’ forecasts for a 5.4% reading. On Friday, the rand was at R15.97/$, R18.10/€ and R21.28/£. [Reuters]