News in South Africa 27th August:
1. Anti-vaxxers putting lives at risk:
Western Cape provincial health minister Dr Nomafrench Mbombo has lashed out at anti-vaxxers, saying non-expert medical opinions about the Covid-19 vaccines are putting lives at risk by spreading misinformation.
She said that vaccination efforts are being undermined by those who believe their opinions constitute expert advice and challenged people spreading conspiracy theories about the virus to go to the health facilities and “see the bodies”.
As they intubate patients, doctors and nurses in the Western Cape hear “regrets being expressed” by those same patients who chose not to be vaccinated and are now fighting for their lives.
The government is ramping up its education campaign around vaccines, trying to douse rumour and speculation and stamp out vaccine-hesitancy.
2. Tourism industry needs vaccinations:
A group of PR and communications agencies in the tourism and hospitality sector have banded together under the ‘South Africa is Travel Ready’ campaign aimed at promoting inbound tourism to the county.
The campaign, operating under the #Jab4Tourism hashtag, encourages South Africans to get vaccinated in numbers in an effort to attract international travellers to the country.
Companies behind the campaign include African Twist Travel, Big Ambitions, The Hunter Group, Lesley Simpson Communications, Scribe Consulting, Take Note Reputation Management, Tribeca Public Relations, Darling Lama.
“While we support freedom of choice, we have to show our travellers that South Africa is Travel Ready and that we take their safety and that of our staff seriously,” said MD at Big Ambitions Natalia Rosa.
The tourism industry, which is one of the key contributors to GDP and job creation in the country, has been struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Stats SA’s Tourism 2020 report, foreign arrivals dropped by 71% from just over 15.8 million in 2019 to less than 5 million in 2020.
In the same year, the volume of tourists dropped by 72.6% from 10.2 million in 2019 to 2.8 million in 2020.
3. Covid-19 looters still at large:
Little progress is being made in bringing Covid-19 looters to account, with investigations into millions of rands spent on fogging and sanitising crawling at a snail’s pace.
The SIU is investigating over R630 million worth of contracts at Gauteng departments, where money was given to companies with no track record of doing the business they were hired for.
Progress is being made in money spent by the Gauteng Department of Education, but this is not the case with the wasted funds at the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development and the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality.
4. Income grant warnings:
A green paper published by the Department of Social Development this week formally proposes introducing a basic income grant for South Africa, but finance officials have warned that the country needs to be more ‘realistic’ about its social security plans.
The green paper proposes three options for a universal income, ranging from R585 to R1,268 a month, based on the country’s existing poverty lines.
To raise enough funds for even the lowest of these options, the green paper suggests an income tax hike of 10 percentage points to raise the approximately R200 billion needed.
However, deputy finance minister David Masondo cautioned against the aspirational plans proposed by the department – warning that it’s not something the country can afford.
“We have to ask ourselves what are the preconditions for a social security grant proposed in these reforms,” he said. “As a country, we should sequence our current economic priorities, and we should not confuse our aspirations with what is possible economically.
“Many countries that have social security funds have good economic growth. Currently, we have an economy that is faced with many fiscal risks.”
Similar concerns were raised by the Treasury director-general, Dondo Mogajane, who said that South Africa’s debt to gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the largest in the world.
5. 3 Options for schools to catch up:
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is exploring several options to determine the best way to make up for lost teaching and learning time this year.
According to a presentation, three options are expected to be considered to mitigate the impact of another interrupted school year due to Covid-19 and related lockdowns.
Among the options is that Thursday, 23 September – the day before the Heritage Day public holiday – be made a special holiday. This long weekend can then be used as a truncated break to separate the third and fourth terms.
A second option is to start the holiday break on Monday, 20 September and end it on Sunday the 26 September, incorporating Heritage Day.
With both options, children return to school on 27 September to start the fourth term.
Under the third option, which the document notes “is unlikely to meet any resistance from the stakeholders of the DBE”, the school calendar stays as is, with the mini break taking place from 4 to 8 October. This alternative would see officials at a district level deciding on how to make up for lost time, which may include weekend classes.