News in South Africa 13th October:
1. More vaccinations needed to hit targets:
Business for South Africa (B4SA) says that South Africa will need to introduce a combination of mandatory vaccine policies and incentives if the country is to meet its national vaccination target in December.
Currently, vaccination rates are well below the desired rate of 300,000+ per day, which would significantly lessen the scale and impact of a fourth wave of Covid-19 cases over December, said Martin Kingston, chair of the B4SA Steering Committee.
“For anyone to be fully vaccinated in time for the festive season, they must get their first Pfizer shot by 20 October, and it is now increasingly unlikely that 70% of adults will have had their first jab before then.”
In addition, there appears to be growing apathy towards the vaccination. Gauteng recently reported that a million people had not returned to get their second jab, Kingston said.
“In our view, a combination of mandatory vaccination policies, as well as incentives, are going to be necessary alongside the demand generation communications and mobilisation campaign to get as many people as possible vaccinated.”
While some people may feel that their rights may be infringed on with the introduction of vaccine mandates, he said that all employees have rights – not only the unvaccinated ones.
“Employers and businesses too, have rights, as well as a legal and moral obligation to provide a safe workplace and safe services to customers.
“Business has a leadership role to play in providing guidance and taking the initiative and doing so with urgency, in implementing vaccine mandates. This should form part of the comprehensive strategy to maximise swift and comprehensive vaccination so that, as a country, we can all get back to the business of living safely and maximising the scope for economic recovery.”
2. Digital certificate issues:
People experiencing problems getting their vaccination certificates due to incorrect data on their profiles will have to go back to the venue where they were vaccinated to recapture their details.
According to the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) project manager, Milani Wolmarans, who says that the system is designed to capture information on location.
“We’ve got almost 3,000 sites and capturing vaccinations on the EVDS is the responsibility of the vaccination site.” stated Milani Wolmarans. “We have some sites that have reverted to use manual paper forms and then capture the data afterwards. The policy is this has to be captured within 24 hours.”
She said that if people didn’t receive an SMS notifying them of their vaccination within 24 hours, the information has not been correctly captured. The SMS with the vaccination code is usually sent within 15 minutes after being vaccinated.
3. Mass recall of apple juices:
Initial investigations into the recall of certain apple juice products in South Africa point to a single supplier in the Western Cape. Authorities in the province have been requested to identify the root cause and provide feedback on the extent of the health concerns.
Coca-Cola South Africa was the first manufacturer to raise the alarm in September, issuing a recall for more than 37,000 cases of Appletiser products. A similar recall was implemented in Australia.
Just weeks later, LiquiFruit and Ceres – both subsidiaries of Pioneer foods – also announced the recall of certain apple juices. Woolworths is the latest company to recall its 200ml branded apple juice cartons.
These recalls all stem from the detection of elevated levels of patulin. The fruit-based mould is a mytoxin which, when consumed, can cause nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, and vomiting, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The recalls effect batches of products which contain patulin levels exceeding 50 parts per billion, or 50 micrograms per kg, according to the National Consumer Commission (NCCC).
Neighbouring countries like Botswana and Namibia have also started recalling products imported from South Africa. Ceres products have been exported to 25 countries.
“A limited quantity of apple juice concentrate supplied to us, contained elevated levels of patulin. Patulin is a naturally occurring mycotoxin commonly associated with apples,” Pioneer Foods said in its recall statement.
Consumers and retailers have been urged to check their products – by identifying the best before dates associated with recalled batches – and contact suppliers to return the goods for a refund.
The NCC is tasked with investigating the nature, causes, extent, and degree of the risk to the public associated with potentially harmful products. It’s been vocal in issuing alerts related to the apple juice recalls in recent weeks and continues its investigation into the root cause of the patulin problem.
4. Numsa still striking:
A week into the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s (Numsa) strike in the metal and engineering sector, pressure is mounting on employers, with their associations warning that the strike will batter the industry and workers alike.
The strike comes after the union declared disputes with various employer formations during the steel and engineering wage talks, including the Steel and Engineering Industry Federation of South Africa (Seifsa), the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (Neasa), and the South African Engineering and Founders’ Association (Saefa).
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) says it is still getting feedback from its members about the revised wage offer from businesses in the steel and engineering industry, but until a decision is made, the strike will continue.
Unions are demanding an 8% wage increase and CPI+2% each year for the next two years. Employers offered 4.4%, reportedly boosting this to 6% in the latest negotiations.
Business representatives said that even if the wage offer is accepted, the strike is ultimately a failure as retrenchments are now inevitable. Businesses across the country have suffered millions of rands in losses.
5. Inflation at all time highs:
The Covid-19 pandemic caused economies around the world to slump. Governments reacted by issuing stay-at-home orders that caused problems for many as their incomes and livelihoods were destroyed.
Governments spent money like crazy trying to help people weather the Covid storm – but in fact helped create problems with their lockdowns, and the fear and panic caused the biggest decline in a hundred years.
It’s not over yet either, and policymakers have a new panic to worry about – and it could make Covid-19 seem like a cold.
While economies are bouncing back on high spending and ultra-low policy rates, debt levels have exploded. Never have so many central banks had negative real rates. At present 52 out of 59 large economies have negative real rates.
The message is clear. Your money is losing value in the bank, so spend.
The world debt-to-GDP ratio increased to a record high of 290% last year. It did drop back to 280% as the GDPs of many countries bounced back fast, but 280% is far higher than 240% before the pandemic.
Monetary policy normally fights inflation by increasing interest rates, but only a few central banks have done so – most have not. Some policymakers may have increased their rates, but interest rates are lower than inflation.
World inflation is now about 4.6% – the highest rate in 13 years. This is in addition to increasing food commodity prices, while the cost of oil and heating gas is also increasing rapidly.