News in South Africa 8th July:
1. SA death numbers rising:
The Western Cape has warned to brace for rising death numbers in the province, while Gauteng has recorded its deadliest week on record amid a third wave of Covid-19 infections, driven by the Delta variant, with just more than 4 800 deaths from natural causes reported between 27 June and 3 July.
In comparison, 15 334 deaths from all causes were reported nationally in the same week, with just more than 14 000 of those deaths from natural causes, according to estimates prepared by researchers at the South African Medical Research Council’s Burden of Disease Research Unit (BDRU) and University of Cape Town’s Centre for Actuarial Research (CARe).
The researchers have published weekly reports on mortality in South Africa since March 2020 which included estimates on excess deaths, which are obtained by comparing the number of deaths reported to the Department of Home Affairs weekly from natural and unnatural causes to the number of deaths reported over the same weeks in preceding years.
Excess deaths are considered the most accurate way to measure the impact of an epidemic and which can account for deaths that occur outside of healthcare systems.
The graph shows that around 4 800 natural deaths were reported between 27 June and 3 July, which was roughly 3 200 deaths more than expected based on historical data. In contrast, a little more than 700 Covid-19 deaths were officially reported in the same time frame.
Meanwhile, small funeral parlours in the Western Cape have been advised to stock up on coffins.
During the COVID-19 second wave in December 2020, the Undertakers United Front recorded a shortage of coffins in the province.
The Western Cape is now in the grip of the third wave and has close to 25,000 active COVID-19 cases.
The Undertakers United Front says it has placed more orders for coffins and is expecting deliveries by next week Monday.
2. Travel opening up to the vaccinated:
Global travel prospects are slowly reopening to fully vaccinated South Africans who have previously been barred from roaming abroad due to fears about emerging variants and consecutive Covid-19 waves.
South Africans were the most restricted travellers in the world during the first quarter of 2021. At least 120 countries had imposed strict restrictions – equivalent to total bans, with few exceptions – on South African travellers by March.
The number of major restrictions identified by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had dropped to 84 by July, with South African travellers’ grim title of being the most restricted having been passed to India.
Countries with moderate restrictions on South African travellers – including mandatory quarantine periods – have also dropped by around 70%, with at least 43 nations now only requiring a negative Covid-19 test certificate.
Most of these relaxed regulations apply to countries in Africa and Central America, while much of Europe, Asia, North and South America remain off-limits to South African travellers.
A collaborative information project, Sherpa, involving major international airlines and travel agencies, reveals exemptions which apply to fully vaccinated travellers. At least nine European countries are open to all fully vaccinated visitors from South Africa.
The European Union’s (EU) plan to reopen borders and stimulate travel among member states received a boost on 1 July with the introduction of a Covid-19 passport. The passport allows fully vaccinated EU residents and visitors from abroad to travel through Europe. Most EU member states have adopted the new passport, which is afforded to those who have received two shots of a multi-dose vaccine, like Pfizer, or a single jab, like Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
3. SARS auto assessments are back:
Taxpayers should note that their acceptance – or rejection – of an auto-assessment is not automatic: they must let Sars know whether they agree with it or not.
The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has already started alerting around 3.5 million taxpayers that they have been selected for an auto-assessment by sending them an SMS. While such taxpayers do not need complete a tax return because Sars will have done that for them, they still need to ‘file’ the return.
To this end, the SMS directs them to the Sars eFiling platform or MobiApp, where they must either ‘Accept’ or ‘Edit’ the auto-assessment. This must be done on or before Tuesday, November 23 for non-provisional taxpayers. The deadline for provisional taxpayers is January 31, 2022.
If a taxpayer misses this deadline, they will receive an ‘estimated assessment’, which is in fact a final assessment.
The Sars website states that an estimated assessment will only be issued after January 31, 2022.
However, several taxpayers were left confused recently when they received an SMS notifying them of their estimated assessment. Sars has issued a statement to all tax practitioners as well as the affected taxpayers in this regard.
4. Covid rules for couriers:
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has published additional rules for couriers and deliveries under South Africa’s adjusted level 4 lockdown.
In a government gazette on Wednesday (7 July), Ndabeni-Abrahams said that this should be read alongside the existing regulations which were published for e-commerce in May 2020.
The additional rules include:
- Couriers must be thermal scanned daily and must sanitise throughout the day;
- All equipment and materials used must be sanitised more than once daily;
- Courier drivers must be equipped with face masks;
- Sanitisation processes must be in place upon actual delivery of parcels and other items to consumers;
- Vehicles must be sanitised daily before the commencement of a shift;
- All directions in respect of health protocols and social distancing to prevent the exposure of persons to Covid-19 must be adhered to from packaging and distribution to deliver,
The current regulations state that courier and delivery personnel must maintain at least one and a half metres distance from other drivers and customers when making deliveries.
Courier and delivery service personnel are also prohibited from entering the home of a customer if such customer and any other residents within the immediate vicinity are not wearing a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth.
5. Zuma in prison:
Jacob Zuma has been arrested and has spent the first night of his 15-month sentence in custody.
While some of former president Jacob Zuma’s family members are reeling in shock after his surprise decision to hand himself over for imprisonment on Wednesday night, some simply accepted that this was the end of the road for the man who once sat in the highest seat in SA.
Zuma’s cousin, KwaZulu-Natal businessman Deebo Mzobe, said: “There is nothing more we can do about the situation. We just have to accept the situation for what it is and hope that it will blow over very soon.”
Police confirmed that the former president was in custody after handing himself over. He was expected to be transferred to a correctional services facility in KwaZulu-Natal in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The Constitutional Court last week found Zuma guilty of contempt and sentenced him to 15 months’ imprisonment. He was given until Sunday to hand himself over, failing which police were given until midnight on Wednesday to make an arrest.
As the Wednesday deadline loomed, a handful of supporters — led by Zuma’s son, Edward Zuma — gathered at the gates of the family’s Nkandla homestead and vowed that they would not let him be taken into custody.
However, at about 11.15pm, a convoy of vehicles, some with Presidential Protection Service logos on the doors, left the homestead. It wasn’t long after this that police and the Jacob Zuma Foundation confirmed that Zuma was officially in custody.