News in South Africa 29th December:
1. Return to lockdown level 3 and no alcohol:
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will move back to lockdown level 3, taking effect from midnight tonight.
In an address on Monday evening (28 December), Ramaphosa said that the move is being done to limit super-spreader events further, and will adjust previous level 3 regulations to keep the economy as open as possible.
It will also allow government to focus on the social distancing measures, and aims to ease the pressure on hospitals.
The change follows meetings held by the president and his cabinet as part of the National Coronavirus Command Council on Sunday, and come as the country surpasses 1 million cumulative Covid-19 infections and record daily increases.
“Nearly 27,000 South African are known to have died from Covid-19. The number of new coronovirus infections are increasing at an alarming rate. Infections are surging in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng. Infections are alarmingly on the rise in Limpopo,” Ramaphosa siad.
“There is little cause for celebration this year,” lamented Ramaphosa. “We have let our guard down and we are now paying the price.”
He declared new hotspots areas:
- In the Eastern Cape – Chris Hani District, Buffalo City, Amathole District, Alfred Nzo District and the OR Tambo District. These are in addition to Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and the Sarah Baartman District, which have already been declared hotspots.
- In the Western Cape – the West Coast District, Overberg District, Winelands District, Cape Town, Central Karoo District. This is in addition to the Garden Route District.
- In KwaZulu-Natal – eThekwini, Umgungundlovu District, Ugu District, Harry Gwala District, King Cetshwayo District and Ilembe District.
- In Gauteng – the West Rand District, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg are declared hotspots.
- In the North West – Bojanala District
- In Limpopo – the Waterberg District and the Capricorn District.
Under the new lockdown level 3, the following takes effect:
- All indoor and outdoor gatherings will be prohibited for 14 days, with an exception to funerals and places like restaurants and gyms. These exceptions will be clarified in the official regulations.
- Nationwide curfew will be extended to 21h00 to 06h00. Aside from essential services, no one will be permitted to be out during this time. All establishments will close at 20h00, with a more specific list to be published soon.
- Every individual will be responsible, legally, for wearing a mask in public. It is now compulsory for every person to wear a mask in a public place. Violators will be guilty of an offence, and could be prosecuted. They could be liable for a fine or imprisonment, or both.
- The sale, distribution and transportation of alcohol will be prohibited. Restaurants and bars won’t be permitted to sell alcohol at all. The prohibition on the public consumption of alcohol remains.
- Businesses will continue to operate, subject to guidelines. Nightclubs and businesses that rely on alcohol sales will not be allowed to operate.
- All beaches, dams, rivers and public parks and public pools in hotspot areas will be closed to the public.
The immense strain on healthcare resources – particularly in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal – has hampered to fight against Covid-19.
2. ICUs full amid second wave:
South Africa’s largest private healthcare providers report increased strain amid a swelling second wave of Covid-19 infections, with patient admissions delayed due to Intensive Care Units (ICU) being full.
With the festive season in full swing, South Africa’s Covid-19 caseload has reached dismal new highs, with more than 100,000 new Covid-19 cases registered in just nine days.
“Currently, with our second surge of Covid, we are seeing occupancies of general beds between 60-90% with significant volumes of patients in emergency centres,” says Dr Gerrit de Villiers, Group General Manager of Clinical Performance at Mediclinic International.
“ICU beds and ventilators have experienced the biggest strain with some hospitals’ ICU beds and ventilators fully occupied.”
Mediclinic, which offers roughly 1,000 ICU beds and 850 ventilators, reports that facilities in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have experienced a sudden surge in critically ill patients. These three provinces account for more than 80% of the national total of active cases.
Due to the strain on ICU wards, Mediclinic has introduced an “ambulance diversion strategy”, whereby incoming patients may be transported away from their nearest facility to reduce delays in treatment.
3. Biden encountering Trump roadblocks:
President-elect Joe Biden said on Monday many of America’s security agencies had been “hollowed out” under President Donald Trump and the lack of information being provided to his transition team by the outgoing administration was an “irresponsibility.”
“We’ve encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget,” Biden said after a meeting with his foreign policy team.
“Right now we just aren’t getting all of the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” he added.
After Biden beat Trump in the Nov. 3 election, the Democrat’s team only began meeting with administration officials in late November to coordinate the handover.
Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede defeat and his administration only authorized cooperation with Biden on Nov. 23. Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
Earlier this month, Biden’s team said they had met resistance to requests for information.
4. Mass selling in Chinese tech firms:
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. led a second day of frenetic selling among China’s largest tech firms, driven by fears that antitrust scrutiny will spread beyond Jack Ma’s internet empire and engulf the country’s most powerful corporations.
Alibaba and its three largest rivals — Tencent Holdings Ltd., food delivery giant Meituan and JD.com Inc. — have shed nearly $200 billion in Hong Kong over the two sessions since Thursday when regulators revealed an investigation into alleged monopolistic practices at Ma’s signature company. That marked the formal start of the Communist Party’s crackdown on not just Alibaba but also, potentially, the wider and increasingly influential tech sphere.
“It is very hard to predict the outcome of the Chinese government’s ongoing investigation into Alibaba and other large consumer internet platforms,” Baird analyst Colin Sebastian wrote in a note. He cut his price target on Alibaba’s U.S.-listed shares to $285 from $325, citing “uncertainty around government oversight and potential for direct regulatory action in the coming year.”
The company’s American depositary receipts fluctuated before closing Monday largely unchanged, after a historic 13% slide the previous session. Volume surged to several times the 12-month daily average, reflecting doubt over what’s going to happen next. JD.com fell 3.4% and Tencent declined 3.5%. The day’s Hong Kong trading was also fierce: Alibaba fell 8% Monday, shedding $270 billion of value since its October peak, while Tencent and Meituan both tumbled more than 6%.
5. Baby Boomer and Millennial property trends:
Millennials – defined as those currently between the ages of 24 and 39 years old – account for almost 30% of the total population according to Statistics SA – and also represent the largest generation to enter the country’s workforce (51%).
When buying property, Millennials prioritise living in a good neighbourhood with easy access to lifestyle centres, restaurants and shops. This is one of the findings of a recent survey by urban property development firm Blok.
“Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) typically prioritise a bigger home, which accommodates their generally larger families, whereas Millennials are increasingly settling down later in life and having fewer children than previous generations. Therefore, the size of their home is less important,” says Jacques van Embden, managing director at Blok.
Another reason why Millennials are increasingly opting for a smaller private space is because they’re concerned about affordability, especially with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This makes price a key factor influencing where they choose to live. The vast majority of respondents indicated that they could only afford a property with a maximum price threshold of R750 000.
Research by property analytics firm Lightstone shows that, in terms of the age of buyers, it’s the Millennial age group that buys the most properties, followed by the 40 to 49 and 49 to 64 age groups. Freehold property remains the most popular property type, followed by sectional title and estate living.