News in South Africa 25th October:

1. New lockdown level 1 regulations:

The government has gazetted updated regulations for South Africa’s adjusted level 1 lockdown, including changes for schools and transport.

New lockdown level 1 regulations
Image taken by: Ethan Wilkinson

The changes include the relaxation of restrictions for air travel and updated regulations around school gatherings, sports, and extra-curricular activities.

The changes are outlined in more detail below:

Domestic travel

A traveller must provide a valid certificate with a negative Covid-19 test outcome, recognised by the World Health Organisation or equivalent local accredited authority, obtained no more than 72 hours before the date of travel. South African authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of the presented certificate.

An airline operator is allowed to provide pre-packaged catering onboard the aircraft but must take all measures Covid-19 health measures into account.

International travel 

A passenger in transit must have a valid negative Covid-19 certificate obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel from an accredited laboratory.

International scheduled operations and charter flights carrying passengers are allowed at the following airports:

  • OR Tambo International Airport;
  • King Shaka International Airport;
  • Cape Town International Airport
  • Lanseria International Airport;
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.

Schools

The following activities may resume at schools with spectators as long as health and safety measures must be adhered to:

  • Contact sport, non-contact sport, including training, intra-school and inter-school matches, and all arts and culture intra-school and interschool activities;
  • Co-curricular and enrichment programmes, such as oral history, spelling bee, moot court, speech contests, debates and school clubs, may resume activities including competitive inter-school events and engagements;
  • Choir practice or rehearsals and choir competitions.

2. Load shedding continues:

South Africa’s state-owned power utility Eskom will resume load shedding on Monday evening, from 21h00, following breakdowns at some of its electricity-generating plants over the weekend.

Eskom has been cutting 2,000 megawatts from the grid since Saturday evening after breakdowns and malfunctions at six of its plants. The rolling power cuts were suspended early on Monday morning, however, they will resume from 21h00 – 05h00 on Monday and Tuesday evening.

Eskom attributed this issue to a trip at Koeburg Unit 1 as a result of a fault on a feedwater pump that is on the secondary plant. It emphasized that there are no nuclear safety concerns on the reactor side of the plant, and it is, therefore, ready to be restarted once the pump fault has been resolved.

“We anticipate the need to utilise emergency reserves extensively during the next few days to avoid load-shedding,” Eskom said in a statement. “To achieve this, Stage 2 load shedding will be required during Monday and Tuesday nights to replenish the emergency reserves for the following day.”

For people living in the major metros, load shedding schedules are available here:

For access to other load shedding schedules, Eskom has made them available on loadshedding.eskom.co.za.

In other news an investigation says that reporting systems implemented by former Eskom CEO Matshela Koko may have incentivised managers to under-report problems during his tenure to artificially inflate system performance – all to the detriment of the grid and possibly exacerbating the issues the power utility faces today.

According to the report, the system rewarded managers for meeting generation targets and threatened suspension without pay if expectations were not met. Historical data shows that reported data during Koko’s tenure and under the system is inconsistent with data before and after this period. Koko denied the allegations.

3. Parents needed for vaccinations:

Children between 12 and 18 are now not only eligible to receive a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine but can explicitly get themselves vaccinated with or without the consent of their parents.

But after a week of teenage vaccinations, and discussions about what would happen in situations such as an objection by one parent, it is now clear that a child trying to arrange their own vaccination will, in practice, find it effectively impossible.

Independent providers say they would be reluctant to provide a vaccination to an unaccompanied child, with the possibility that a vengeful anti-vaccine parent could then nit-pick about the process and procedure followed to test whether the child had properly consented. Nobody wants to be the test case who faces a damages claim or complaint before a professional body.

But it turns out that is not the major hurdle children face. They are more likely to be unable to arrange a vaccine shot because the government won’t help them do so.

As with adults, children must be registered on the national Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) in order to receive a jab. To confirm their identity for the purposes of that system, they require “South African ID cards, birth certificate with registration number, foreign passport or any verifiable asylum/refugee proof of identity bearing the name of the child“. 

For the largest section of the eligible group, that will mean a birth certificate. And if the child can’t lay their hands on a birth certificate presumably safely guarded by a parent or guardian?

4. Vaccines a political tool:

As South Africa continues to get as many people vaccinated as possible before the end of year festive period, all signs point to the country missing its vaccine target of 70% of the population by Christmas.

However, analysts believe that this result should not be too surprising, given how vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination dogma has become an effective political tool for those looking to cast doubts and aspersions on leaders and authorities.

With the most complicated local elections in our democratic history now just a week away, some political parties appear to be battling to catch the national narrative oxygen. This has led to some trying to use the issue of vaccinations as a way to generate more support. For other players who, for political reasons of their own, work hard on spreading distrust within our society, the vaccination issue serves as a potent wedge.

There are many reasons why this happening, and we are far from being the only democracy where people are using the pandemic for their own narrow and, frankly, disgusting benefits. Disturbingly, this is a worldwide problem. In the end, it is likely that most people will get vaccinated, but the people who put their personal and selfish ends above humanity’s needs, may still cause untold damage.

There is now plenty of evidence that certain people are trying to generate vaccination hesitancy or even anti-vaccination sentiment for their own ends.

The African Christian Democratic Party has held protests against mandatory vaccinations, trying to skirt the line very carefully to avoid being labelled as “anti-vaxxers”.

One of their main arguments is that the enforcement of a policy of mandatory vaccinations, whether for everyone in the country or for workers going into a workplace, is unconstitutional.

Mind you, this is a party that also refuses to accept gay marriage or abortion, or the legalisation of the personal possession and ownership of dagga — all three of which have been judged by the Constitutional Court to be constitutional.

Rather this is the latest in a long history of the ACDP finding a “wedge issue” to gain traction. The party is aware that there are many people who are conservative and share its views — thus it is hoping that they will now cast their ballots for them, not because they are for something, but against it, never a good enough reason to cast one’s vote.

The same may go for others who are also stirring the vaccination panic pot for their own interests.

Mzwanele Manyi has recently used his Twitter account to question the government’s decision to vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 17. There is abundant scientific evidence that this is a sensible and beneficial policy for our government to follow.

Manyi has tweeted, “It is nonsensical, unethical and unconstitutional to vaccinate children without the informed consent of their parents. How on earth can a 12year old be relied upon to make an informed consent? How? This Government is reckless!”

In reality, it is likely that very few parents and children will disagree on the vaccination issue, that for decades now children are only allowed into school after having been vaccinated against other diseases in the first place, and that in fact the issue of children being allowed to consent to certain medical procedures has been established practice since the introduction of the Children’s Act in 2005.

Like some others in our society, it may well be that this is an attempt by Manyi to undermine trust in vaccinations, as part of a much bigger attempt to undermine trust in and the legitimacy of the Ramaphosa-led government itself.

And this is where the nub of the entire issue may lie.

As UKZN Public Health expert Professor Mosa Moshabela has pointed out, the issue is not really about whether people trust vaccines. In fact, it is about whether people trust the authorities and the institutions that have produced and authorised the vaccines.

5. Resurgence of inflation:

It might be prudent not to take out a big loan to buy a new car with a powerful (and thirsty) engine right now – few economists disagree with the broad view that interest rates are set to increase and petrol prices to rise even further from the current high levels.

“The SA Reserve Bank [Sarb] is likely to hike interest rates at every monetary policy committee [MPC] meeting next year,” says Nolan Wapenaar, one of the chief investment officers at Anchor Capital.

He warns that increasing oil prices are creating “massive inflation pressures” in SA and that inflation could breach 6% if recent trends are anything to go by.

The latest figures from Statistics SA show that inflation increased to 5% in September after increasing to 4.9% August. This is significantly higher than the average inflation rate of 3.3% in 2020.

Wapenaar told a diverse audience in a presentation outlining the potential for bonds recently that one of the big reasons for the increase in the oil price is higher demand from China as the huge country is switching back to its older power stations that use oil and coal, and relying less on its more modern natural gas power stations.

He warns that motorists can expect very steep petrol prices following the increase in oil prices to around $85 per barrel. “The petrol price is expected to increase by around R1 per litre beginning November.

“Prepare to pay R20 per litre very soon,” says Wapenaar.

“Fuel inflation rose 19.9% year-on-year after factoring in an increase of 4 cents per litre (95 octane petrol inland), but is expected to rise further towards year-end on higher international oil prices amid a global energy crunch.

“Although higher fuel costs should drive inflation higher in the near term, services constitute around half of SA’s inflation basket and lower price pressures in this component of the basket (including medical aid tariffs and rental inflation) will likely continue to provide an anchor for headline inflation in 2022,” they say, alluding to the fact that fuel and other transport costs have a very low weighting in the consumer price index.

The economists at FNB feel the same, pointing out that the benchmark Brent crude oil prices reached a monthly average low of under $30 per barrel in April 2020, before rising to over $75 per barrel in September 2021, with recent daily quotes currently above $85 per barrel.

“It is expected that rising demand amid slow-adjusting supply could keep oil prices elevated in the near term,” says FNB economist Siphamandla Mkhwanazi.

“These developments suggest that fuel prices will be elevated going into 2022. As it stands, the Department of Energy’s half-month fuel price developments showed that we may have a R1 per litre fuel price hike in November,” says Mkhwanazi.

In addition, electricity inflation has returned to double digits – currently at 14% from 6.2%.

“Fuel and electricity inflation present the greatest source of upward inflationary risk as they spill over to the cost of producing and distributing goods as well as providing services,” says Mkhwanazi.

FNB expects inflation to increase for the next few years.

“In line with a gradual recovery in demand, we project headline inflation to rise from an average of 3.3% in 2020 to 4.5% in 2021, 4.3% in 2022 and 4.5% in 2023,” according to a recent research note, warning that there is risk that inflation could be higher than this forecast if supply bottlenecks persist and transportation costs increase more than expected.


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

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