News in South Africa 29th April:
1. Vaccination rollout started:
South Africa’s Sisonke vaccination programme restarted without issues on Wednesday.
3 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines are expected to arrive in the country over the next two months, with phase 2 of the rollout starting around the middle of May.
95 vaccination sites are gearing up to roll out the vaccine en masse, but government has to pick up the pace of administering the jab to hit its targets. To meet the Sisonke target of 500,000 vaccinated by 16 May, government needs to vaccinate 12,000 people a day. So far, it is managing only 6,000.
“A couple of the sites needed a bit more time as, for instance, there’s some travel involved and we didn’t want to send the vaccines out until we knew that we were definitely restarting. Some of the sites have also just received their ethics approval, so that also delayed things a little bit but by and large a number of sites are back on the road.”
South Africa wants at least 10 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines made by Russia and China, according to health minister Zweli Mkhize. Local distributors say they can easily meet those kind of numbers.
2. Mango to continue flights:
Mango is due to resume flights – possibly until going into hibernation in May. But SAA division SAA Technical may cut half its staff, it told unions, as money continues to be too tight to keep all of the broader SAA group going in its current form.
South African Airways Technical is set to begin a Section 189 retrenchment process in terms of the Labour Relations Act, Derek Mans, union Solidarity’s union official for the aviation and defence sector, said on Wednesday afternoon.
SAAT currently has 2 019 employees, and this number is anticipated to be reduced by 1 203 employees.
He said organised labour met with SAAT earlier during the day and all labour unions have been served with notices. The aim is to start implementing the retrenchment process from the end of June this year.
SAAT’s management has applied to the CCMA to appoint a facilitator to assist the parties engaged in the consultations, he said. “We are currently studying the notice,” said Mans.
Solidarity is currently running a food scheme for its members at SAAT.
Unlike SAA, SAAT and other subsidiaries like low-cost airline Mango and AirChefs are not on business rescue.
3. Wage negotiations going south:
Trade unions, including the Public Servants Association, others affiliated to Cosatu, and Fedusa, have rejected the government’s revised compensation offer for 2021 and said negotiations have now reached a deadlock. The unions are closer to embarking on a strike.
Talks between the government and trade unions over salary increases for South Africa’s public servants in 2021 have collapsed, with both parties failing to agree on a matter that has become a political hot potato.
South Africa has been here before and the contentious matter has become a merry-go-round, with trade unions representing public servants tabling inflation-beating salary increases every year that the government decries as being unaffordable.
This year is no different. The government and trade unions last met on Friday, 23 April at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), where both parties negotiate terms of employment.
At the PSCBC meeting, trade unions repeated their demand for a salary increase of consumer price inflation plus 4% — effectively 8.3% considering that the SA Reserve Bank expects consumer price inflation in 2021 to average 4.3%. This increase would be for all public servants, regardless of their salary and seniority levels.
The government — represented by the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu — has rejected union demands at the PSCBC and reiterated a proposal to not give public servants salary increases. Instead, the government’s negotiators have revised their offer by sweetening other fringe benefits for public servants including increasing their annual leave, linking salary increases to employment level progression, and increasing daily allowances such as transportation and healthcare costs.
4. Factors behind India’s outbreak:
Just two months ago, India’s coronavirus outbreak seemed to have turned a corner. Cases had plummeted to their lowest point since the beginning of the pandemic and vaccines were starting to be rolled out.
But now, average daily cases in India have risen more than 20-fold in the last two months. The country reported more than 350,000 new cases on Monday – the world’s highest-ever daily total. Deaths have risen nearly 25-fold in the last two months. Indian hospitals are now plagued by long lines and ventilator and oxygen shortages, while bodies pile up at crematoriums.
Public-health experts point to four factors that have caused the outbreak to spiral out of control: rapidly spreading variants, an increase in social gatherings, a slow vaccine rollout, and an ill-prepared healthcare system. Had India used its respite over the winter to ramp up testing, genomic surveillance, and the supply of critical medications, they said, the nation would have been better prepared to handle a new surge.
“Unfortunately, the narrative that played out about how well India did caused a false sense of security,” Krutika Kuppalli, an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, told Insider. “I always felt and believed that India would become the epicenter of this pandemic.”
Mukherjee said India’s “premature celebration of victory” could serve as a warning to other countries.
“The treacherous thing about this virus is that you cannot wait to see its action,” she said. “You have to really track its silent footsteps.”
5. Hospitals still suffering:
The Gauteng government admitted that it hasn’t made much progress in addressing problems at 32 hospitals in the province, where it has been known for several years that hazards and maintenance issues exist.
One of the hospitals in question is Charlotte Maxeke, where a fire broke out earlier this month.
A report presented in March revealed that of 32 hospitals flagged as being hazardous, only two had any critical repairs done.
In 2017, government was warned that these hospitals were in a perilous situation and needed urgent maintenance. The province is only now at the stage of tendering for repair work.