News in South Africa 28th December:

1. Liquor ban consideration:

South Africa is considering reinstating a total ban on liquor sales as the number of Covid-19 infections surge over the summer holiday season.

Image taken by: Elle Hughes

Restrictions on alcohol sales have been implemented to various degrees since one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns was imposed in March, in part to lower hospital admissions from vehicle accidents and alcohol-related violence. Still, the government lost tax revenue as a result of an initial ban on any sales and liquor traders and bars fired workers.

The ban could start on Tuesday and last through 10 January, however, a final decision has not been made.

South Africa had three record-breaking days of infections through 25 December, when it registered 14,796 new cases. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize a day earlier called for stricter measures to curb the spread, which has already battered the economy. The number of confirmed cases in the country passed 1 million on Sunday.

2. Eskom clamping down on illegal connections:

Eskom and City Power say they will continue to clamp down on illegal connections in Gauteng — whether they be in gated estates or informal settlements.

Eskom recently did an audit in the plush Waterfall Estate in Midrand where some residents had connected to the electricity network illegally. Eskom’s Ronel Kotze said a total of 219 points were audited and six illegal connections found.

Kotze said the audits were conducted based on low consumption on the meters. She said some property developers had connected to the network while the property was under construction and failed to follow the process to apply for temporary supplies.

Kotze said the customers were disconnected on the same day and remedial notices issued.

“Two such incidents were found on site. Revenue recovery is done on these accounts and the customers are billed for the lost consumption.” Kotze said one customer who had illegally connected himself was billed R415,683 and fined R45,000.

“Eskom is losing millions per year due to illegal connections to the network. We find that customers are prepared to pay someone to illegally connect them rather than to pay Eskom for the consumption,” Kotze said.

Isaac Mangena from City Power said the power utility was losing about R2bn in non-technical losses, which included illegal connections.

3. High-profile court cases coming in 2021:

Several former world leaders, a Hong Kong media tycoon, the CEO of Theranos and Jeffrey Epstein’s confidante — all are scheduled to have their day in court next year.

With vaccinations heralding a return to normalcy, the next year should see courtrooms around the world coming back to life. Ghislaine Maxwell, China critic Jimmy Lai and Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee are among those facing high-profile criminal cases in 2021. Some proceedings, including the fraud trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, are resuming after being postponed by the pandemic. Another delayed case, UBS’s appeal of its $4.9 billion French government tax penalty, is among the many that will be heard by higher-level and supreme courts.

There are also a number of cases against former world leaders, including France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Malaysia’s Najib Razak and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma. One of the most tantalizing questions will be whether a certain former US president could find himself facing trial as well.

4. New aid bill signed for US citizens:

US President Donald Trump on Sunday signed into law a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and averting a federal government shutdown in a crisis of his own making.

Trump, who leaves office on 20 January after losing November’s election to President-elect Joe Biden, backed down from his earlier threat to block the bill, which was approved by Congress last week, after he came under intense pressure from lawmakers on both sides.

After signing the bill behind closed doors at his beachside club, Trump sought to put the best face on his climb-down, saying he was signing the bill with “a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed”.

“Much more money is coming,” he insisted in a statement, though he provided nothing to back this promise.

5. Workplace prep for returning staff:

As the second wave surges across South Africa, there will be high Covid-19 risk in the workplace in January – so employers need to put measures in place now for when staff return to work, says Dr Rebaone Moshenyane, occupational medical practitioner at Workforce Healthcare.

Workforce Healthcare is the healthcare division of AltX-listed Workforce Holdings. It is a specialist health and wellness provider that aims to positively influence employee health and wellness through disease prevention, early detection and diagnosis, and interventions that restore and optimise health and wellness.

Your staff may spend December in Covid hotspots…Companies need to implement proactive measures to avoid a coronavirus outbreak in January.”

Workforce Healthcare offers fully integrated workplace and wellness programmes for 160,000 employees including Covid-19 screening, prevention and management.

Dr Moshenyane outlines the measures that employers should implement:

  • Symptom checking of every returning staff member in January.
  • Virtual GP visits are a good option if employees are found with symptoms.
  • Covid testing can then be decided by said GP.
  • Vulnerable employees need to ensure employers know they have a vulnerability (they do not need to reveal what the vulnerability is), to prevent any severe cases.
  • Antigen testing are a good option to test vulnerable employees as some may be asymptomatic and the antigen test bypasses this.
  • Psychological issues may be on the rise due to the pandemic. Employees should have access to a 24/7 Covid-19 support lines manned by trained counsellors and psychologists.
  • Track and trace should be implemented for any employee found with symptoms, to minimise the spread they may cause.

All information sourced from articles posted by: Business Insider, Fin24, TimesLive, MoneyWeb, News24, and BusinessTech.

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