1. Lower lockdown level soon:

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to ease lockdown restrictions following consultations with the Health Department, the National Coronavirus Command Council, and other stakeholders this week – however, not all health experts are on board with the plan.

Lower lockdown level soon
Image taken by: Andrea Piacquadio

The National Coronavirus Command Council is expected to meet with political parties and religious bodies.

South Africa is currently on adjusted level three lockdown.

The curfew and sale of alcohol are expected to be amended.

But some scientists say not enough people have been vaccinated.

“My sense is that, considering the fact that, we have been under lockdown for such a long time it’s possible that the population needs some sort of respite, said Professor, Mosa Moshabela from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

“I also think that it is possible that there is sort of preparation from the economic point of view to increase population activity but my view is that we would have been better off focusing on driving up vaccination and delaying relaxation of the lockdown levels to level 2.”

2. J&J cuts infection risks in half:

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine cuts the risk of getting infected with the disease by about half, according to the latest results of a trial involving almost half a million health workers in South Africa.

The vast majority of the breakthrough infections were mild, Glenda Gray, co-leader of the study known as Sisonke, said in an interview, citing unpublished data from the trial, which had earlier shown the shot’s effectiveness against severe illness.

Like all Covid vaccines, J&J’s was intended and tested for its ability to prevent Covid hospitalizations and deaths. Even so, the frequency of breakthrough infections in vaccinated people highlights the challenge governments face in halting the virus’s spread, which threatens to lead to the proliferation of new variants that may be even more contagious.

Coupled with vaccine hesitancy, the limited efficacy of shots in stopping mild infections will mean “we will continue to see a flow of infections,” said Bruce Mellado, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who uses modeling to predict the trajectory of infections. Still, he said, the effectiveness against death and severe disease could prevent a “human catastrophe.”

The study included several weeks during which South Africa was going through a third wave of coronavirus infections, spurred by the highly contagious delta variant. The emergence of new, fast-spreading strains has made earlier goals of herd immunity – when the proportion of the population that’s vulnerable to the virus sinks so low that it stifles spread – harder to reach.

By cutting the number and the intensity of infections, the vaccines limit the chance of further mutated strains emerging. Yet for many countries, the focus has shifted to reducing the seriousness of illness and subsequent demand for more intensive treatments.

The Sisonke trial measured breakthrough infections both by asking participants to report a positive result as well as by getting daily alerts from testing laboratories. The researchers also tapped data systems to see who had been hospitalized or died.

Initial results from Sisonke, released Aug. 6, showed J&J’s single-dose vaccine was about 70% effective against hospitalization and as much as 96% effective against death. The trial didn’t include the use of a placebo.

The final results which include three sets of data from private insurers and the government, will be submitted for publication in days, said Gray, who’s a research professor at the University of the Witwatersrand.

3. ANC too poor for full campaigning:

South Africa’s cash strapped governing party will resort to tried and tested door-to-door campaigns to try and woo voters ahead of the local government elections.

The ANC’s deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte on Tuesday said they’d rely on volunteers and councillor candidates to reach out to communities across the country, but there would be no rallies because of COVID-19 regulations.

Duarte said the party would visit wards throughout the country, including those where it did not enjoy mass support.

Municipal polls are expected to be held between the 27 October and 1 November in accordance with the recent order of the Constitutional Court.

With just over 50 days to go before the local government elections, the ANC sits with a cash flow problem, frustrated staff and a broader terrain that gives the electorate more options.

Just fewer than half of voters (49.3%) are likely to cast their ballot for the governing ANC in local government elections due late next month, according to market-research company Ipsos. The same survey found that support for the main opposition Democratic Alliance stands at 17.9%, with the Economic Freedom Fighters garnering 14.5%.

Ipsos was, however, quick to stress that the estimates, drawn from a computer-assisted telephonic interview study undertaken from 16 to 20 August, are “not a prediction of the election”.

“Although a large proportion of voters have made up their minds, 7.4% of those who indicated that they will vote in the local government elections are not allocated to a political party,” it said.

“Predictions, for what they are worth, should only be made much closer to election day.”

4. Taxpayers paying Zuma’s hospital bills:

Taxpayers could be footing the bill for Jacob Zuma’s stay in private hospitals, with the correctional services department being billed almost R400,000 so far for his medical care.

Prisoners are typically sent to state hospitals for medical care, but in some cases, they can use private facilities if they can afford it.

As a former president, the department said that the government is considering paying his bills, which are expected to escalate.

Zuma has been released on medical parole – typically reserved for those who are terminally ill.

The parole system sets out a detailed rule of law process before medical parole can be granted, as George Aloysius Pillay set out in his master’s thesis.

Read against the rapid way in which Zuma’s was granted, it is clear that corners were cut by Fraser, who goes back a long way with the former head of state. Fraser is alleged in reports to have given the so-called ‘spy tapes’ to Zuma which contained details of how his Arms Deal corruption prosecution by the National Prosecuting Authority may have been politically tainted. Later, as DG of the State Security Agency, Fraser commandeered a private intelligence army that served Zuma as the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has been heard.

5. El Salvador bought 400 bitcoins:

El Salvador bought its first 400 bitcoin and plans to soon buy “a lot more,” as the country neared this week’s deadline to make bitcoin the country’s official currency, President Nayib Bukele tweeted on Monday.

“El Salvador has just bought its first 200 coins,” Bukele said in a series of tweets on Monday. “Our brokers will be buying a lot more as the deadline approaches.”

Hours later, Bukele said the country bought an additional 200 bitcoin, giving it a total of 400 bitcoin.

The bitcoin purchases, coming just a day before El Salvador’s bitcoin law will come into effect, amount to roughly $20 million as of Monday’s price.

It’s the first step toward El Salvador’s ambitious attempt to make bitcoin legal tender, which is set to draw a lot of attention from cryptocurrency enthusiasts to monetary policy experts around the world – while transforming the daily life for Salvadorans.

In June, El Salvador passed a law that will make it the first country to establish bitcoin as legal tender alongside the US dollar, the country’s current national currency. All entities in the country will now have to accept bitcoin as a payment method for goods and services, and Salvadorans will be able to use the cryptocurrency to pay taxes.

The country’s looming bitcoin rollout has not been so smooth. Salvadorans complain they have received little official communication from the government, leaving them in the dark on what the transition will mean for them. Global banks and rating agencies have questioned the decision, saying it could jeopardise the much-needed IMF lending talks, hurt local insurers, and even weaken the bitcoin network.

All information sourced from articles posted by: ENCA, BusinessTech, EWN, M&G, Daily Maverick, and Business Insider.

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