News in South Africa 26th May:

1. Third wave in full force:

Fears of stricter restrictions are growing as the Covid-19 positivity rate — the percentage of positive outcomes in the tests taken in a 24-hour period — climbed into double figures on Monday.

Thirdwave in full force
Image taken by: Sora Shimazaki

It was the first time since mid-November that the positivity rate breached 10% on an upward trajectory.

The health ministry has previously raised alarm as the positivity rate climbed  towards the 10% and 12% marks. On Monday night, there were 2,383 new Covid-19 cases from 23,352 tests — a positivity rate of 10.2%.

“Daily test positivity rate in SA breaches 10% level today (10.2%),” said Suliman, adding that the last time SA’s positivity rate was above 10% was in February when the country was exiting the second wave of the coronavirus.

“Previous time SA breached 10% on an upward trajectory was November 17, 2020,” wrote Suliman.

SA’s national coronavirus command council (NCCC) was expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss the rising rate of infections.

The highest case incidence per 100,000 population over the past week was reported in the Northern Cape at 226,9. This is followed by:

  • Free State – 101.2
  • Gauteng – 58.4
  • North West – 52.7
  • Mpumalanga – 24.4
  • Western Cape – 22.8

A total of 3,084 new cases have been reported, taking the total reported to 1,640,932.

Deaths have reached 55,976, while recoveries have climbed to 1,543,951, leaving the country with a balance of 41,005 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 700,904.

2. Loadshedding warning:

Eskom on Tuesday afternoon warned the public to reduce the usage of electricity as the power system is under severe pressure, with a high probability of load shedding.

This is due to a shortage of generation capacity, caused by breakdowns in generation units and delays in others returning to service.

While no load shedding is anticipated at this point, Eskom could be forced to implement stage 1 or, if necessary, stage 2 load shedding at short notice should any further breakdowns occur. This will be most likely between 17:00 and 22:00 in the evening.

“Your assistance in these difficult times has always made a difference. Eskom would like to appeal to the public to help the country get through these constraints by reducing the usage of electricity. The current outlook for the remainder of the week is expected to improve as Eskom teams are working tirelessly to return more generators to service,” Eskom said in a statement.

3. Digital Rand research:

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) on Tuesday confirmed that its research into launching its own digital currency as electronic legal tender should be concluded by next year.

Many other countries – including the US and the UK – are looking into the possibilities of issuing their own digital currencies, with China launching its “cyber yuan” last month. The US Fed said in recent days that is research into an American digital currency will be published in coming weeks.

If launched, the digital rand will be backed by the central bank and it is expected that one digital rand will be equal to one real-life rand. But unlike the physical currency, the digital currency won’t be issued as notes or coins. It will only exist in its digital form.

The digital rand is expected to be “complementary to cash”, according to the Reserve Bank statement on Tuesday.

Consumers will be able to use the central-bank-backed digital currencies to pay for goods and services, without having a bank account. They will be able to hold the digital currency in an e-wallet.

Because the central bank will keep track of the movement of the digital currency via a secure digital ledger (using so-called blockchain technology), it will reduce fraud and make it difficult to hide any transactions from the authorities.

4. No Vax from Covax:

South Africa’s first official procurement deal was struck with the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) programme nearly half a year ago, in December 2020. But unexpected vaccine trade-offs and crippling supply constraints have left South Africa with nothing to show for it so far, and Covax under pressure to meet its new June deadline.

South Africa’s vaccine rollout has been anything but smooth. The first batch of vaccines secured, produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), arrived in the country on 1 February. Those AstraZeneca doses were due to underpin Phase 1 of South Africa’s rollout but were abandoned a week later after a study determined that the jab was less effective in combatting the locally-prevalent 501Y.V2 variant of the coronavirus.

The one million doses already received were sold onto the African Union (AU). The SII refunded South Africa for the vials paid for, but not yet delivered.

The health department swiftly pivoted to the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) jab, which was used to vaccinate almost 480,000 healthcare workers until its use was also halted due to health concerns raised by various international drug regulators.

The two-dose Pfizer vaccine is now being used in Phase 2 of the rollout, which targets people over the age of 60.

And while these recent hurdles have typified the stop-start nature of South Africa’s rollout, initial red flags regarding government’s readiness were raised in early December 2020 – when it infamously missed the deadline to join Covax.

Vaccines delivered through Covax, an initiative led by the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to supply vaccines to poorer nations, were expected to kickstart South Africa’s rollout.

5. Rand going strong:

The rand’s continued strength against the dollar saw it reach R13.84 to the greenback in late afternoon trade on Tuesday afternoon.

This is the strongest it has been since February 25, 2019, and comes after it hit a high of R20 to the dollar on April 24, 2020.

The rand’s rise follows the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) maintaining the repo rate at 3.5% but having a “hawkish tone” noted Nedbank in its weekly economic monitor.

In recent times the rand has not only strengthened against the dollar, said Nedbank; over the week to end May 21, it rose 0.9% against the euro and 0.8% against the pound.

The bank pointed out that this has been a trend for a while.

“Over the past four weeks and on a year-to-date basis, the rand has reaped reasonable gains against all the above currencies.”

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

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