News in South Africa 8th February:

1. AstraZeneca ineffective against local Covid variant:

The roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine to South Africa’s health workers has been temporarily halted following results showing low efficacy against the South African variant of the coronavirus.

AstraZeneca ineffective against local Covid variant
Image taken by: cottonbro

South African health workers will now receive the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine or the Pfizer vaccine, after the Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, on Sunday 7 February announced a major shift in the country’s vaccine roll-out.

The shift was necessitated by the publication of what the lead investigator in the Oxford/AstraZeneca trial, Professor Shabir Madhi, said were “disappointing results” showing that the vaccine did not work well against the South African variant of the coronavirus.

The South African variant was first identified in November 2020 in cases from Nelson Mandela Bay. At present, more than 90% of positive cases of coronavirus infections in SA are caused by this variant that has been proven to be more contagious than the original virus.

As South Africa has already received one million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine with an expiry date in April, the deputy director-general of the Department of Health, Anban Pillay, said they are engaging with the Serum Institute in India to find a solution.

2. 8000 workers to gain shares in Coco-Cola:

Eight thousand workers at Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) are set to own 20% of the beverage company in a new black economic empowerment (BEE) share scheme. Workers currently hold about 5% of Coca-Cola equity.

The deal is part of the conditions of Coca-Cola’s 2016 merger with former partner SABMiller, now part of brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev. The Competition Tribunal on Thursday said the deal can go ahead subject to several conditions, including increased worker ownership in the beverage company as well as obligations relating to localisation and procurement.

Workers who participate in the scheme will also be able to nominate two non-executive directors to the board of Coca-Cola Fortune (CCF), the sole shareholder of CCBSA.

At a media briefing on Friday, CCBSA MD Velaphi Ratshefola declined to reveal the value of the scheme “because CCBSA is not listed”.

He did however say that the transaction, which is expected to come into effect in May, will be fully vendor-funded, meaning that workers will not be required to make any payments to purchase equity.

“From day one when we make profits on [a] quarterly basis, as dividends get declared, they [workers] will [get paid],” Ratshefola said.

3. Schools suffering same issues as before:

Public schools are reopening in about a week’s time. And it almost feels like déjà vu. The scenes from last year, when learners finally returned to school after the hard lockdown, are about to play themselves out again.

Already teacher unions — through a survey they conducted with school principals — have said that the 7 440 heads from all provinces who participated in the survey expressed little confidence that schools will be able to comply with Covid-19 protocols.

They cited not having enough masks, hand sanitiser and water as the reason for this conclusion.

We have been here before. Last year, the five big teacher unions did similar surveys to gauge the readiness of schools to open. The surveys were what led to them having a back-and-forth with the department of basic education; they were saying that their members would not go back to class if the non-negotiables such as personal protective equipment (PPE) were not in place.

Even when the people who are on the ground — principals — shared with the teacher unions that their schools were not ready to open because they did not have PPE and water, politicians would go on public platforms and lie that provinces were ready to open schools and that schools were Covid-19 compliant when they actually weren’t.

4. Spike in violence after alcohol ban lifted:

Durban has seen a spike in vehicle accidents and incidents of domestic violence after the government lifted the prohibition of the sale of alcohol this week.

There has also been an increase in the number of house parties being hosted — despite “social gatherings” still being illegal under current level 3 lockdown regulations.

eThekwini metro police spokesperson Sen Supt Parboo Sewpersad said on Sunday that the force had seen more accidents, domestic violence cases and complaints of “partying at residences” in the past few days, compared to previous weeks.

This comes after ministerial advisory committee co-chair Prof Salim Abdool Karim stated last week that the lifting of restrictions was likely to result in a “small rebound in cases”.

“There is likely to be a small increase; it takes about seven to 10 days. I can’t predict how big it is going to be,” said Abdool Karim.

“There has been an increase in everything, including domestic violence. Loud music disturbance complaints are also on the rise and partying at residences,” said Sewpersad.

5. Brent crude traded over $60 per barrel:

Oil advanced above $60 a barrel for this first time in more than a year as global supplies tighten and the demand outlook improves with the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

Futures in London gained as much as 1.2% before easing slightly on Monday, extending its rally after a third weekly gain. A year after the pandemic kept millions home, grounding planes and devastating fuel demand, a rebound in consumption along with output curbs is leading to a rapid tightening of markets. Timespreads for the global benchmark Brent have been firmly in a backwardation structure, indicating bullishness.

Meanwhile, the number of vessels sailing toward China jumped to a six-month high on Friday, signaling robust demand from the world’s biggest importer. Despite the positive indicators, top independent traders Vitol SA and Gunvor Group Ltd. have expressed caution about the recent surge in prices and one technical indicator is showing that oil is overbought.

Oil has surged amid vaccine breakthroughs
Image sourced from: Bloomberg

Prices:

  • Brent for April settlement rose 51 cents to $59.85 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange at 2:31 p.m. Singapore time after climbing to the highest intraday level since Jan. 29, 2020.
  • Front-month futures advanced 6.2% last week.
  • West Texas Intermediate for March delivery gained 1% to $57.40 on the New York Mercantile Exchange after adding 1.1% on Friday.
  • Crude futures climbed 1.3% to 362.7 yuan a barrel on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Business Insider, DailyMaverick, Moneyweb, Mail & Guardian, TimesLive, and Bloomberg.

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