News in South Africa 13th January:
1. Anti-vaxxers spread unfounded fears:
Fake news about the coronavirus has become a problem on social media.
Professor, Salim Abdool Karim, Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, says people need to stop fearmongering around the vaccine.
He says while no one will be forced to take it, people must have the correct information.
“There are generally three groups of individuals who are hesitant about taking the vaccines,” Dr Abdool Karim explains.
“The first group just don’t know enough about it,” he says.
Karim says the second group are concerned as a result of misinformation.
“They’ve been told something or read something that does not convey the information accurately.”
Karim says the third group is those deliberately anti-vaccine and that they are the ones who often end up spreading the misinformation.
Fake news about being forced to take the Covid vaccine, or somehow getting Covid from 5G, are being spread on social media, prompting response from various experts and officials. Karim says the misinformation is about fearmongering, and spread by a small, but vocal group of people who are ‘deliberately anti-vaccine’.
2. Alcohol companies request relief:
Booze businesses have asked for another deferment of their excise payments while their wares are banned. The government says it lost about R13.6 billion in taxes during the previous ban. The total national budget to buy coronavirus vaccines is R30 billion.
The industry’s request comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Monday night announcement that the ban on the sale of alcohol will continue during the country’s current level 3 lockdown. His announcement came amid pressure from the alcohol industry for the ban to be lifted, with the country’s largest beer maker, Ab InBev-owned South African Breweries, approaching the court in a bid to have the ban set aside.
Alcohol producers and traders have called for the restrictions to be eased and for trading to be allowed for off-site consumption, but are at present facing a blanket ban, while the country battles with rising Covid-19 cases and prioritises hospital beds for these patients.
In its statement on Tuesday, the South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) said the extension of the ban, which was imposed in December, left the industry with no choice but for it to apply for a deferment on the excise duty payment.
3. Home Affairs rife with infections:
The staggering 44% increase in the number of death-certificate registrations at home affairs in December 2020 compared to December 2019 has highlighted the lethal nature of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This large spike in death registrations, including the death of seven home affairs front-office workers in the first 10 days of this year alone, has forced the department to slash the number of services it offers at its branches countrywide.
Speaking during a media briefing on Tuesday, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi gave a stark outline of the surge in deaths, saying that his department registered 55 676 deaths in December 2020, compared to 38 620 a year earlier.
In December 2018, 36 825 deaths were registered by home affairs, Motsoaledi said, adding that the steep climb was attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Motsoaledi, who was expanding on the stringent regulations announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, which included the closing of the country’s 20 land borders, said home affairs would no longer provide smart ID applications and collections, nor birth and marriage certificates, at any of its offices “until further notice”.
Motsoaledi said this was based on a statistical analysis of who visited home affairs offices: 29% of people came for smart ID collections; 16% for smart ID applications; 11% for birth, marriage and death certificates; and 10% for temporary ID applications.
Only matric learners would be allowed to apply for smart IDs.
“We are also suspending marriage services and solemnisation of marriages and registration of marriages. We are aware that this will be difficult [for] people, but please bear with us because we have to save lives,” Motsoaledi said.
4. Manufacturing production down:
Manufacturing production decreased by 3.5% in November, on a year-on-year basis – this was expected, as export demand declined during the last quarter of 2020.
Statistics South Africa on Tuesday released November’s manufacturing data. Investec priced in a tamer decline of -2.2% compared to the -3.5% which was registered.
Among the biggest contributors to the year-on-year decline were petroleum, chemical products and rubber and plastic products – down 9.6%. These were followed by food and beverages production, which declined by 2.9%, and basic iron and steel, metal products and machinery, which declined 3.9%.
Month on month, production levels declined 1.3% compared to October 2020.
However, for the three months leading up to November, manufacturing production increased by 8.9% – this as all 10 manufacturing categories reported positive growth rates, Stats SA said.
The Absa Purchasing Manager’s index, which measures economic activity in the manufacturing sector, had eased to 52.6 index points in November, following its record high of 60.9 points reported in October.
5. Markets retract with extensions:
South African markets retracted slightly yesterday, with investors concerned over the economic impact of the level 3 lockdown extension.
The JSE All Share Index closed 0.35 percent lower at 63 535 index points after touching 63 979 points, close to a high of 64 022 points, during early trade.
Mining stocks were 1.45 percent down to 61 290 points, general retailers eased 0.05 percent to 4 490 points, while the banks index rose 0.26 percent to 6 885 points.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced the extension of the National State of Disaster, with the adjusted level 3 lockdown remaining for another 30 days to February 15.
FXTM’s Lukman Otunuga said the decision to extend the lockdown would most likely raise fears around more job losses as small businesses were struggling to survive.