News in South Africa 26th April:

1. Covid infections spiking again:

South Africa appears to be heading for a fresh wave of coronavirus infections, though this one is predicted to be less deadly than previous waves. The latest Covid-19 figures report 30,086 active cases, 30 daily deaths and 1,954 new cases.

Covid infections spiking again
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

But South Africans can no longer be bothered to even talk about Covid-19 anymore.

Last week, engagement around Covid-19 vaccines was down by half on Twitter and down by 60% on Facebook, reported the department of health’s Social Listening & Infodemiology team.

Meanwhile, vaccination rates are dropping fast, and now seem increasingly unlikely to ever reach the 67% target the health department had originally set for December 2021, even as health authorities try to spread the message that “the pandemic is not over”.

At the same time, evidence is mounting that South Africa is entering a fifth wave of coronavirus infections.

Data teams from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases analysing positive Covid-19 tests in South Africa have found an increase in the presence of two subvariants of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, which have increased in prevalence from 16% to 44% overnight.

The sub-variants have been of interest to the World Health Organization, with no evidence yet of increased severity of symptoms or immune escape.

Recent numbers had been “worrying”, health minister Joe Phaahla told Parliament late last week, though by Monday his department said it wanted to watch the trend a little while longer before officially declaring a new wave.

Both test-positivity rates and signals from wastewater analysis point to trouble, though the consensus is that hospitalisation and deaths will not increase at anything near the same rate as infections, thanks to a combination of prior infections and vaccination. 

Covid stats SA 25-04-2022

2. Stock markets slumped:

Stock markets and oil prices slumped Monday on growing concern that lockdowns in China aimed at fighting a worsening Covid outbreak could further harm a world economy battling decades-high inflation.

The JSE’s All-Share Index dropped 3.5% on Monday, with Anglo (-7.5%), Sibanye (-6.5%) and Sasol (-6%) among the biggest losers. 

The losses extended last week’s sell-off triggered by Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell indicating that the US central bank would hike interest rates by half a percentage point next month and possibly several times more this year.

That has lent strong support to the dollar, which is benefitting also from its traditional haven status. The rand slumped more than 2% on Monday, and was trading at R15.70/$ – it’s worst level since January this year. 

Dollar-denominated oil prices tumbled more than five percent Monday.

Among the world’s major stock markets, Shanghai led the losses, closing down more than five percent.

On Wall Street, though losses were somewhat less sharp than in Europe and Asia, with the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index even briefly posting gains as Twitter shares climbed following reports the company will soon accept Elon Musk’s takeover offer.

In Europe, Paris shed 2.0 percent after French President Emmanuel Macron won re-election Sunday in a battle against rival Marine Le Pen that saw the far right come its closest to taking power.

“Selling is widespread across global markets and asset classes, indicating that we could be on the cusp of a much bigger leg lower,” said market analyst Chris Beauchamp at online trading platform IG.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: “The prospect of further restrictions in China could lead to a poisonous mix of further inflationary pressure, as supply chains in the so-called ‘factory of the world’ get disrupted, and weaker economic growth.”

3. ANC and private sector:

The ANC is proposing greater private sector involvement in the economy, a radical policy shift for an organisation that has long been in favour of state-led growth and possibly a reflection of the government’s constrained finances to lift growth.

In a discussion document on economic policy, obtained by reporters ahead of the party’s policy conference later in 2022, the ANC outlined a range of interventions that broadly propose that private sector companies buy stakes in state-owned enterprises (SOEs), play a bigger role in infrastructure funding and help solve the country’s energy crisis.

4. G4S warns over CIT attacks:

Private security company G4S Cash Solutions has called for the minister of police to convene an urgent meeting with all stakeholders to address the continuing escalation of violence in Cash-in-Transit (CIT) attacks.

This follows a cross pavement CIT attack that occurred in Durban at approximately 13h30 on Monday, 25 April, where four perpetrators opened fire on three G4S officers, resulting in the tragic murder of one of the guards.  Another guard sustained a serious injury and was airlifted to a nearby private hospital where he is in critical condition.

Renso Smit, regional cluster director for G4S Southern Africa, said: “We are devastated at this tragic and senseless loss, and have conveyed our deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.  This loss of life is especially senseless since all of our cross pavement devices are equipped with technology that renders 100% of the cash unusable when forced open. Our message to would-be criminals is clear – don’t bother attacking our teams because you will get away with nothing of value.

G4S said it invests significantly, and on an ongoing basis, in equipping its guards with all the training, resources, equipment and tactical support they require for protection.

“These are not ordinary criminals; they are well-organised, cold-blooded murderers whose indiscriminate use of weapons continues to take lives and destroy families.  The country and the entire private security industry cannot afford to lose more guards to these brutal attacks, and we are therefore calling on the minister of police to take urgent action.

“To tackle CIT attacks, we believe it’s essential that this sort of crime is prioritised; that the CIT task team under the SAPS be reconstituted and bolstered as a matter of urgency, and that the sector works closely with law enforcement and government to tackle this scourge together.

“There are not enough prosecutions and convictions to deter these criminals, who are operating with impunity.  We are therefore calling on Crime Intelligence, SAPS, the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority and the Ministers who lead them, to prioritise CIT crime,” said Smit.

Data from the South African Police Service shows South Africa reported 60 cash-in-transit heists in the last three months of 2021 alone.

5. Shortage of vehicle parts:

Motorists whose vehicles get damaged in accidents or other incidents are facing long potential delays in the repair of their vehicles because of “an acute shortage of motor body repair components”.

This is the warning from the SA Motor Body Repairers’ Association (Sambra), which represents almost 1 000 motor body repair businesses that account for more than 80% of all insured repair claims in the country.

Sambra national director Richard Green said on Monday they have received notifications from several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) advising that these supply constraints will continue for many months.

Green said the component shortage is totally out of the control of Sambra members.

He said multiple factors have contributed to the shortage, including the hangover from the Covid-19 lockdowns, the fact that large manufacturing entities had to almost shut down for a period, with some going out of business, and the rationalisation process that almost occurred among suppliers.

“Then there is ‘a live’ economy suddenly again with demands returning back to pre-Covid-19 levels.”

Green said there is also a shortage of metal around the world, including steel, apart from the well-known shortage of semiconductors.

He said these supply constraints have also affected the production of alternative parts and Sambra is finding that this has had a knock-on effect on the quality of available alternative parts.

Green said the shortage has been exacerbated by dramatic increases in the cost of international cargo container logistics, which has increased four-fold over the past 12 months.

‘Plan for delays’

He strongly suggested that motorists who do not have car hire cover on their motor insurance policies to include this cover as a matter of urgency because it is inevitable that vehicle repairs will take far longer than normal while manufacturers struggle to restore the parts and component supply chain.

Green said it is impossible to specify the components that are in short supply because it varies from OEM to OEM.

“It really depends on what kind of car you are driving as to how badly you will be affected. It ranges from the semiconductor issue right down to a basic part which Mazda, for instance, says in some cases will take three months to supply.

“Mazda is the only one that has admitted to me that in some cases there is at least a three months waiting list,” he added.

All information sourced from articles posted by: Business Insider, Fin24, BusinessLive, BusinessTech, and Moneyweb.

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