News in South Africa 28th April:

1. Outbreaks of Covid increasing:

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday said there were several COVID-19 cluster outbreaks in mines, schools and townships in three provinces, which health experts were monitoring closely.

Outbreaks of Covid increasing
Image taken by: Andrea Piacquadio

The Northern Cape, the Free State and the North West have recorded a significant spike in daily new coronavirus infection rates over the last few weeks.

Mkhize said it could be attributed to the Easter holiday break where the virus spread faster. “These increases show that we’re still at risk and, therefore, we must keep using masks, social distancing more now than ever.

“The sense of complacency of people feeling that we’re fine and were without problems… we must remove that thinking because it is going to cause us an earlier surge, which we could’ve actually delayed.”

As of today, the total number of confirmed Covid19 cases is 1 576 320 the total number of deaths is 54 186 the total number of recoveries is 1 501 880.

2. Tourism Equity Fund halted:

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has interdicted government from processing applications or paying out any money to businesses from its Tourism Equity Fund (TEF), following a challenge by trade union Solidarity and lobby group AfriForum.

The R1.2 billion TEF was announced earlier this year. It involves R606 million to be contributed by the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA) and R594 million by an unnamed “strategic bank co-funders”, and aims to enhance transformation in the tourism industry.

Monday’s ruling halts the Department of Tourism, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and SEFA from disbursing TEF monies to applicants, and even processing any new applications pending a review of the fund.

Solidarity and AfriForum said the fund did not comply with the Constitution and other relevant laws. They claimed they had no other choice but to turn to the court after talks with the minister were unsuccessful in convincing her to open the fund for all tourism businesses.

“The pandemic does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, yet this disaster is being exploited by the government and only Black Economic Empowerment businesses are provided with funds at the expense of established businesses of white owners who are forced to close their doors,” said Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann.

3. J&J vaccine rollout to restart:

South Africa’s Johnson & Johnson Sisonke trial is expected to restart today, continuing the first phase of the country’s vaccine rollout. The trial was expected to conclude at the end of April with 500,000 healthcare workers inoculated, however, international concerns over blood clotting resulted in the programme being paused.

It is now expected to finish on 16 May, with the next phase of the rollout – targeting the elderly, those with co-morbidities, and essential workers – to start thereafter.

South Africa has secured enough vaccines to meet targets.

4. Covid pill a possibility:

A Covid-busting game-changer could be on its way – in the form of a pill you can take to combat the early stages of an infection.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla stated on Tuesday that an oral antiviral pill that can be taken in the comfort of one’s home is in the works and could be made available to the public by the end of this year.

Bourla said he expected this experimental oral drug would be effective against multiple variants of the virus and be used to treat Covid patients at the onset of the illness, way before they require critical care. He also added that one of the drug’s major benefits was saving people trips to the hospital to get treatment for Covid.

The drug, which falls under a class of medicines called protease inhibitors, works like this: it binds to viral enzymes, stopping the virus from replicating in human cells. These inhibitors attack the “spine” of the Covid virus and prevent it from further multiplying in our respiratory system.

Protease inhibitors are also used to treat other illnesses, like HIV and hepatitis C.

CNBC wrote that early-stage clinical trials for the drug, currently known as “PF-07321332,” have been underway since March.

According to documents seen by the Telegraph, the pharmaceutical company intends to have PF-07321332 be administered to patients in combination with small doses of Ritonavir, an antiviral that is currently being used to treat HIV. Ritonavir will act as a “booster” to increase the amount of PF-07321332 in a patient’s bloodstream and make the dose more effective.

5. New State Capture info:

Nomachule Gigaba, also referred to as Norma Mngoma, the estranged wife of former minister of home affairs Malusi Gigaba, appeared at the Zondo Commission on Monday night (April 26) to testify to Gupta-related evidence.

Mngoma testified to the Gupta influence, a R5-million-rand wedding, expensive gifts, having large amounts of cash to spend, and a privileged lifestyle where the state picked up most of the couple’s expenses.

Gigaba had given her a credit card with a R200 000 limit. He would also give her cash to shop overseas, R100 000/R150 000.

Mngoma dropped some revelations:

  • Gigaba referred to the Guptas as his unofficial advisors.
  • Ajay Gupta informed him that he would get the post of minister of public enterprises two to three months before he got the position. The Guptas also informed Gigaba of other official appointments ahead time.
  • She and Gigaba went to the Waterkloof Air Force Base the day before the Gupta wedding, as Gigaba had to meet the Gupta wedding guests.
  • At the Gupta residence, Ajay Gupta would brief Gigaba about South African Airways (SAA) or Transnet, or a forthcoming meeting. Ajay would tell Gigaba who he thought should be appointed to a particular position. They also discussed the Kusile Power Station project at Eskom.
  • Gigaba told her that the Guptas didn’t like Brian Dames, the chief executive of Eskom from July 2010 until the end of March 2014, and that there would be a restructuring. Dames apparently didn’t dance to the Guptas’ tune.
  • If Ajay Gupta wanted someone to be appointed, he put pressure on Gigaba. Gigaba started avoiding Ajay’s calls. Ajay told Gigaba that he should remember why he was appointed at the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE).
  • When Gigaba didn’t always do the Gupta’s bidding, he was told that he would be sent back to the Department of Home Affairs.
  • The Guptas had given Gigaba a white BMW 3 series, which was registered in her name.

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

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