News in South Africa 30th December:

1. Long wait for vaccines:

South Africa, which has Africa’s worst recorded coronavirus outbreak, may have to wait months to receive its first vaccines even as other countries race to roll out the shots.

Long wait for vaccines
Image taken by: Miguel Á. Padriñán

The government only expects vaccines that it paid a deposit to secure from the World Health Organization’s Covax program to arrive in the second quarter of 2021, according to president Cyril Ramaphosa.

The wait bodes ill for a country that’s confronting a new more virulent strain of the virus, record new infections and a populace that’s increasingly eschewed social distancing.

Talks with drug companies about supplementing South Africa’s Covax allocation are ongoing, Ramaphosa said in an address Monday night, in which he announced the re-imposition of several restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic’s spread.

It’s unclear when or whether those shots will be made available, with several wealthy nations having already prepaid to pin down most of the initial production.

“With a lot of advanced purchasing of vaccines, it will be hard to jump the queues in trying to secure earlier vaccine doses,” said Stavros Nicolaou, an executive at Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd and head of the health work group at Business for South Africa, an alliance of the nation’s biggest business groups that’s known as B4SA.

The Solidarity Fund, which was established to support the government’s pandemic response and is backed by some of the country’s biggest companies and richest individuals, paid the initial R283 million ($19.3 million) Covax deposit.

It will cost a total of R2.7 billion for South Africa to secure its full allocation of six million doses from the facility – sufficient to cover about 10% of the population.

2. National state of disaster extension likely:

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said that there was already a clear indication that the country’s state of disaster will be extended beyond the 15th of January.

The declaration is meant to come to an end in two weeks’ time but Lamola, during a media briefing, told journalists that if there was a review on the cards, it was likely to happen around the 10th of next month.

President Cyril Ramaphosa placed the country on alert level 3 on Monday night, restricting nightclubs, beach visitations and the sale of alcohol.

This level will also see the compulsory use of masks coming into play, with South Africans now being liable for a fine or being sentenced to at least six months in jail for non-compliance.

“All indications are that with the reports coming from Health, we may have to again extend the state of disaster. But in terms of which regulations will be applicable, it will be announced when there is a review,” the minister said.

President Ramaphosa said that the latest restrictions were aimed at curbing the spread of the pandemic as well as freeing up resources in the health sector.

3. International flights curfew pass:

International travellers onboard late-night flights into South Africa will be permitted to move from the airport to their places of accommodation during the 21:00 to 06:00 curfew, government says. Visitors have, however, been urged to carry proof of their travels to avoid fine or imprisonment if stopped by police.

The curfew extension has already disrupted local flights, with airlines scrambling to adjust their schedules and revise bookings.

Between 21:00 and 06:00, only those with valid work permits will be allowed to travel to and from their homes. This reprieve is extended to persons seeking urgent medical attention.

But during a press briefing on Tuesday, minister of justice and correctional services Ronald Lamola, and the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, agreed that international travellers get a pass on that rule.

“International travellers who arrive during the period of the curfew will still be allowed to reach their destination,” said Lamola.

Although South African travellers have been barred from entering several nations following the discovery of a more infectious Covid-19 variant, known as 501.V2, the country’s airspace remains largely unaffected by the recent move to adjusted Level 3 lockdown. International flights into OR Tambo, King Shaka, and Cape Town International airports remain operational, albeit in a fashion subdued compared to the usual December rush.

4. Death toll of teachers concerning:

The Department of Basic Education says it is concerned whether there will be enough teachers in classrooms when schools reopen next year as a number of educators have succumbed to Covid-19.

Basic Education director-general Mathanzima Mweli said in a video statement yesterday that the deaths of teachers were alarming.

“The immediate impact of this will be on marking and on teaching and learning when schools reopen. We are extremely worried about the impact this will have when the schools reopen for the 2021 academic year,” he said.

Mweli said the department would ensure that the matric-marking centres were safe through strict adherence to safety protocols.

“We have increased the number of monitors in our marking centres. My plan is to visit every marking centre across the country so that when I report to the minister and the MECs, I would not just be relaying what has been conveyed to me. I should have walked through the experience of what is taking place in every marking centre.”

A report compiled by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education on Covid-19 deaths and infections showed it had lost 95 staff in total between March and December 24, with 59 of these being teachers.

Thirona Moodley, of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said it would have a clear indication of the impact of Covid-19 on its members when the schools reopened next year.

5. MTI placed in provisional liquidation:

The Cape High Court placed bitcoin investment scheme Mirror Trading International (MTI) in provisional liquidation on Tuesday (December 29).

The court order instructs the sheriff to attach all property that appears to belong to MTI in all provinces and submit an inventory to the Master of the Cape High Court.

No one from MTI turned up in court to defend the action.

A group called Recovery Action Group (RAG) was hastily convened over the last few days to represent as many of the estimated 280 000 members as possible to speak with one voice before the court and the regulators.

There was a fear that multiple liquidators were circling MTI with a view to feasting on its carcass, but in the end, the court granted the provisional liquidation order to MTI member Anton Lee, who had been trying unsuccessfully to withdraw funds from the company since December 21.

A provisional liquidator will be appointed within the next few days to commence the mammoth task of tracking down the assets of senior MTI management and leaders.

Advocate Vaughn Victor, a cybersecurity and crypto expert who is part of the team representing Lee, says it now appears that investors shipped roughly 23 000 bitcoin (worth R9.45 billion at current prices) to MTI.

Most of this was done within the last seven months – well after the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) issued warnings to the public to steer clear of the company which lured investors from all over the world with promises of returns of up to 10% per month.

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

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