News in South Africa 6th January:

1. NCC meeting not urgent:

Government communications said there was nothing urgent about Wednesday’s national coronavirus command council (NCCC) meeting.

NCC meeting not urgent
Image taken by: Miguel Á. Padriñán

GCIS director general on Tuesday has announced that members of the joint operations centre will report to the president.

This after rumours were spread that President Cyril Ramaphosa was to address the nation on Monday night.

There have been widespread assertions that Wednesday’s meeting is an urgent one and the next command council meeting was only scheduled for next week.

Williams has denied this: “There was no other scheduled meeting other than this one, there was no cancelled one. It was the festive period, and this is the first one in 2021.”

And denied that Ramaphosa is about to address the nation any time soon.

2. WHO says SA and UK strain differ:

There is no indication that the coronavirus variant identified in South Africa is more transmissible than the one spreading fast in Britain, the World Health Organisation’s technical chief on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said on Tuesday.

The health ministry announced recently that the country had detected a new variant of Covid-19, which was said to be more transmissible and affects people who do not have comorbidities.

The country has been seeing new daily cases come in the tens of thousands, and on Monday surpassed 30 000 deaths.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 patients should take two doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine within a period of 21-28 days, the WHO said.

3. Aspen contacted over vaccines:

The SA government is in discussions with SA pharmaceutical giant Aspen over access to a Covid-19 vaccine.

Last week it emerged that 300 million doses of the vaccine, developed by global health-care giant Johnson & Johnson, are to be produced at Aspen’s plant in Port Elizabeth.

Aspen said in a statement the deal would depend on the completion of Johnson & Johnson’s phase three clinical trials. Vials and syringes would then be filled at Aspen’s facility from a bulk supply of vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, after which they would be distributed through the pharma giant’s global supply chain.

Johnson & Johnson has stated it will make 50% of its 2021 targeted production available to developing markets of which SA forms a part. This could make the Johnson & Johnson vaccine a front-runner of the many vaccines the government is trying to get access to.

Health department deputy director-general Dr Anban Pillay has confirmed the discussions, but declined to give further details.

“We are certainly speaking to Johnson & Johnson and Aspen as the contract manufacturer and they are keen to assist us with supply of vaccine as soon as possible,” Dr Pillay said.

It was not immediately clear when the company would be able to deliver the vaccine, nor what it would cost.

4. Medical aids to assist with vaccines:

Leading medical aid schemes and industry bodies have expressed support for the proposal that they contribute to financing the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine supplies for members and high-risk non-members.

While announcing the country’s vaccine rollout strategy on Sunday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said funding would be drawn from three sources – the government, medical aid schemes and the private sector – and be pooled into a national fund to purchase vaccines from manufacturers once agreements have been reached.

Approximately nine million South Africans are members of medical aid schemes and companies could cross-subsidise non-members for the jab, suggested the minister.

Momentum Health Solutions’ executive head of marketing, Damian McHugh, said the company had participated in conversations over the last two weeks about procuring vaccines “to ensure that we provide more health to more South Africans for less”.

“Within Discovery Health and Discovery Health Medical Scheme, we are delighted to be collaborating with the national Department of Health and working in solidarity to ensure adequate funding of vaccines for all South Africans,” said Noach.

“This has critical relevance and implications to the health of our population, and to our economy. We are embracing the opportunity to co-fund.”

“We believe it will be in everyone’s best interest to procure and distribute the vaccine as soon as possible, to as many people as possible,” said McHugh.

5. Projected growth of 3.3% for SA:

The World Bank projects SA’s economy to rebound by 3.3% in 2021, with the global economy set for a recovery of 4%, following the harsh blows of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bank on Tuesday issued its January 2021 Global Economic Prospects report, in which it provides its economic outlook for the year. The improvement in global growth, following the contraction of -4.3% in 2020, is largely dependent on the widespread rollout of Covid-19 vaccine throughout the year, the bank noted in its report.

The World Bank emphasised that countries need to focus on controlling the spread of Covid-19, ensure the rapid and widespread deployment of Covid-19 vaccines and encourage investment. It has put forward a downside scenario where global growth would be limited to 1.6% if infections continue to rise and the vaccine rollout is delayed. An upside scenario where there is a rapid vaccination process and successful control of the pandemic could see growth of nearly 5%.

According to its report, the World Bank estimates the SA economy to have contracted by 7.8% for 2020, in line with Treasury’s estimate. By comparison, the Reserve Bank expects the economy to have contracted by 8% in 2020 and to rebound by 3.5% in 2021.

All information sourced from

NCC meeting not urgent

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