News in South Africa 7th January:

1. Lockdown Level 4 a possibility:

South African government officials have called for stricter measures to curb soaring coronavirus infections at a meeting to discuss the state’s response to the pandemic.

Lockdown Level 4 a possibility
Image sourced from: cottonbro

President Cyril Ramaphosa is hosting a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council on Wednesday to assess the spread of the disease.

With the number of infections now over 1 million and more than 30,000 people having died from the disease, Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Police Minister Bheki Cele have recommended the country move to virus alert level 4 for 30 days, the people said. They asked not to be identified as no decision has been taken.

Other officials concerned about the impact harsher restrictions might have on the economy called for the relaxation of measures including the ban on alcohol sales and the closing of the nation’s beaches, the people said.

The discussions by the NCCC may continue on Thursday.

2. Batsa opposes govt appeal:

American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) on Wednesday counter-filed an application for leave to appeal the December high court ruling in which it successfully argued that last year’s five-month-long tobacco sales ban was unconstitutional.

The move follows an application for leave to appeal from the government, which has raised fears in the industry that Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is pushing to revive the contentious prohibition that accompanied Covid-19 lockdown alert levels five, four and three.

The Western Cape high court ruling overwhelmingly went in Batsa’s favour. In papers filed, the tobacco giant begs leave to challenge it on four points, provided the government’s application for leave to appeal is successful.

“The application for leave to cross-appeal is conditional upon the first and second respondents’ application for leave to appeal being granted,” Batsa says in its notice to the court.

It plans to withdraw the application, should the government do the same.

If not, it will challenge the court’s finding that each party pays its own costs. In this regard, Batsa argues that the court erred in not awarding a cost order against the government because the ban had already been lifted by the time the ruling was handed down.

Legal precedent would have it that when a private entity succeeds in constitutional litigation against the state, its costs should be paid by the state, Batsa argues in its application.

3. Drive-through vaccinations possible:

Covid-19 vaccines will be available as a drive-through service where you never need to leave your car, if Dis-Chem has its way.

The health chain says it will gear its drive-through coronavirus testing stations to also administer the immunisation shots that will protect against Covid-19, in collaboration with the department of health.

Such drive-through vaccinations are expected to be available in the United Kingdom from next week.

But first the vaccines will have to reach South Africa.

“Dis-Chem is already in communication with the department of health but has not confirmed procedure, quantity and availability of Covid-19 vaccines,” said national clinic manager, Lizeth Kruger.

Competitor Clicks is also standing ready to help in rolling out vaccinations to a targeted 40 million South Africans.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who has been accused of fumbling the procurement process and failing to guarantee bilateral agreements with willing pharmaceutical companies, has been summoned to provide procurement details before Parliament on Thursday.

4. SA covid-19 variant more infectious:

Amid global concerns about new variants of the coronavirus, British scientists are fearful that it’s the South African strain that may cause the greatest risk.

But local experts say the country’s variant strain is currently being critically studied and that there’s no need to panic.

“Currently there’s no evidence that cases are more severe,” said Dr Jeremy Nel, an infectious disease specialist.

“However, just being more transmissible will lead to many more deaths anyway because it overwhelms more healthcare systems.

“What we’re seeing, for example, at the hospital I work at, two wards full of COVID patients to ten wards full of COVID patients in just three weeks,” Nel said.

Of global concern now is whether vaccines will be effective against the variant strain.

5. Load shedding here to stay?:

Eskom announced that it will implement stage 2 load-shedding between 22:00 and 05:00 on Wednesday 6 January and Thursday 7 January.

Eskom said the load-shedding is necessary to recover and preserve its emergency generation reserves.

These reserves have been used to “support the system during the week following the earlier-than-planned shutdown of Koeberg Unit 1 and other units whose return to service has been delayed”.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said South Africans should expect load-shedding to be a reality for the better part of the year.

“We will start seeing some improvements later in the year – around September – but load-shedding will not be completely eliminated,” he said.

The only thing which will eliminate load-shedding for good, he said, is new power stations coming online.

“Eskom is currently operating with very unreliable machines which have to be run very hard, as we have done for the past three years,” he said.

All information sourced from articles posted by: Moneyweb, BusinessTech, Mail&Guardian, Business Insider, ENCA, and MyBroadband.

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