News in South Africa 25th June:

1. Gauteng not yet at Covid peak:

Politicians and scientists are begging the citizens of Gauteng to do the basics to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Gauteng not yet at Covid peak
Image taken by: Laura James

The nation’s economic hub is in the grips of a bruising third wave, with more than 74,000 active cases in the province. Nationally, over 16,000 new infections have been confirmed. Gauteng accounts for 9,521 of those cases.

On Thursday, Premier David Makhura blamed Gauteng residents for driving infection rates by failing to adhere to health safety protocols.

Officials were now considering what lockdown restrictions needed to be tightened. The models that government uses to inform planning suggest that Gauteng has not yet reached its peak and Wednesday’s 10,700 new infections have scientists and politicians very concerned.

Meanwhile medical staff under immense strain:

As Gauteng medical staff complain about long working hours, heavy workloads, and a shortage of beds and oxygen amid the third wave of Covid-19, Premier David Makhura says the province is trying to hire additional workers.

During a press briefing on Thursday, Makhura acknowledged that hospitals and workers were under immense strain.

Makhura said:

“The healthcare workers are under pressure. We have taken a decision, as the provincial executive, to say that the health department, as we create more space for beds, we need to get staff. We have said to the department, go and find people… The pandemic’s momentum is where it wasn’t in the last two waves.”

“Looking at these numbers, it is clear the beds are taken. We will spare no energy or effort, we will utilise whatever resources we have to ensure that we have personnel when we have more beds. As we create more beds, we will get more personnel.”

2. Vaccination registration issues:

South Africa’s self-registration vaccination portal was opened to citizens aged 60 and above in mid-April. Only half of the country’s over 60s had booked their jabs by 22 June.

South Africa’s slow vaccination rollout has been marred by procurement delays, supply constraints, and regulatory setbacks. The health department’s plan to vaccinate some 40 million people – representing 67% of the population targeted for herd immunity – by early 2022 is far behind schedule.

Around 2.3 million South Africans – 3.87% of the total population – had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by Wednesday 22 June. It’s taken more than four months – at an average daily vaccination rate of 18,503 doses – to reach this point. Even at the peak rate, of around 85,000 daily doses, achieved in recent weeks, the pace of South Africa’s rollout needs to increase by at least 40% to achieve herd immunity within the first half of 2022.

By the time Phase 2 of the rollout began on 17 May, more than 1.2 million senior citizens had already registered for their Covid-19 jabs through the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) which had opened to those aged 60 and above a month earlier. The EVDS is crucial in monitoring the regional supply of vaccines, ensuring that an adequate amount of doses are delivered to sites according to the registration tally.

This second phase has recently been extended to school staff, with police, military personnel, correctional services staff, mineworkers, and those in the public transport sector next in line to begin receiving their jabs in July. Vaccinations are also expected to open to those aged 50 and above in mid-July, according to the department of health.

But getting people to register on the EVDS – critical in securing a vaccination appointment for the general population – is proving difficult.

3. SARS warns against tax avoidance:

South Africans are warned that they cannot escape SARS’ reach, and the revenue service will catch up with anyone who is trying to get away with undeclared income.

Such is the case with a 2009 tax return of an individual who sold shares to the tune of R66 million and did not disclose this on their tax return that year. The taxpayer tried to argue the gains away, but the courts concluded that they had ultimately made capital gains during the process – siding with the revenue service.

SARS is placing a particular focus on going after wealthy individuals who may be evading tax obligations in South Africa – even if it’s taking on cases over a decade old.

4. Covid meeting on Saturday:

Acting health minister Mammoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says that she will meet with the government’s Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Saturday (26 June) to discuss further lockdown restrictions for South Africa.

In a media briefing on Friday morning, Kubayi-Ngubane said that the MAC has already submitted its recommendations, with the meeting set to focus on the concerns that it has raised and the interventions that need to be made at a national and provincial level.

Professor Koleka Mlisana, co-chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said that tighter restrictions are likely needed to help curb infections.

Mlisana told eNCA that government will look at the current restrictions that are in place and determine how the public is responding to them. It will also look at what other restrictions are needed to help turn things around.

Health experts in Gauteng say that a move to level 5 lockdown will be too damaging for the province – but an increase in restrictions to somewhere between level 3 and level 4 may be necessary.

Dr Mary Kawonga, chair of the Premier’s Advisory Committee (PAC), said that the rapid increase in cases in recent days ‘is very worrying’ and that further lockdown levels may need to be necessary.

Kawonga said that there needs to be a balance between the economy and livelihoods and that a level 5 hard lockdown would likely be too harmful.

5. Powership deal a no-go:

The R225-billion powerships deal may finally be sunk by the environment department’s refusal to authorise the Turkish-led consortium’s projects.

The Karpowership deal was torpedoed by the department of forestry, fisheries and the environment (DFFE) – and, unintentionally, by its own environmental consultants.

The Turkish-led Karpowership SA consortium was named preferred bidder in March to supply the lion’s share of 2 000MW in capacity that government is procuring to reduce loadshedding. But it first needed to secure environmental permits to moor its powerships in three ports: Coega, Saldanha and Richards Bay. 

But on Thursday, DFFE announced that it had refused to grant Karpowership that authorisation.

“The Competent Authority in the Department has decided, after due consideration of all relevant information presented as part of the environmental impact assessment process for all three applications in question, to refuse the applications for the environmental authorisations,” spokesperson Albi Modise said in a guarded statement. 

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a mandatory process of assessing the environmental consequences and viability of a project, and ways of mitigating harm. The process requires an open and transparent engagement with the public, and that stakeholder concerns are properly taken into account.

It also requires that environmental consultants be independent and “perform the work … in an objective manner, even if this results in views and findings that are not favourable to the [client’s] application” the EIA Regulations say. 

“The actual and potential impacts on the environment as well as socio-economic conditions could not be properly evaluated (particularly insofar as small-scale fisheries are concerned).” 

Another major shortcoming was Triplo4’s failure to “fully investigate” the impact that underwater noise would have on fish and sea mammals. 

“Under [these] circumstances it is not possible to make a determination with regard to the significance of potential impacts or consequences for the environment, the effectiveness of potential mitigation measures or whether the project under consideration will constitute a sustainable development.”

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, EWN, News24, Business Insider, Moneyweb, and AmaBhungane.

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