News in South Africa 9th June:

1. Concerns over rising Covid-19 cases:

The National Coronavirus Command Council says it is concerned about the rising number of Covid cases in the country, noting that four provinces – the Northern Cape, North-West, Free State and Gauteng – are into a third wave of infections, with the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape being closely monitored as cases there also increase at an alarming rate.

Concerns over rising Covid-19 cases
Image taken by: Andrea Piacquadio

The majority of cases are coming from Gauteng.

The national coronavirus command council (NCCC) has recommended that the cabinet extends the national state of disaster to July 15, acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni confirmed on Tuesday.

The council pleaded with South Africans to continue with non-pharmaceutical measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowded spaces, and frequently washing and sanitising hands.

“We would encourage South Africans to limit interprovincial movements as that is how the virus spreads. People should not attend unnecessary gatherings.”

2. FNB assisting in vaccine rollout:

FNB will now assist its customers over the age of 60 to register to receive the Covid-19 vaccine on the government’s Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) as the race to reach herd immunity intensifies.

The bank is one of many private sector companies assisting the government in a number of ways in its vaccine rollout since the launch of Phase 2 vaccinations.

Phase 2 of the vaccine programme, which launched in mid-May, is focusing on some six million people aged 60 and above.

This group is among those who are at a more pronounced risk of being hospitalised or dying from Covid-19 related illness. They also account for 60% of all reported Covid-19 related deaths in the country, according to data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

The banks’ qualifying customers will be able to register on the EVDS portal at 600 branches across the country that operate from Monday to Saturday, or its 37 branches that open for limited hours on Sundays.

3. Zweli Mkhize on special leave:

Embattled Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that he understood the public’s outrage and anger over the Digital Vibes debacle.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday placed Mkhize on special leave to allow him time to deal with the investigation into the contentious contract.

Mkhize was on an oversight visit to Kimberley in the Northern Cape yesterday when news of the president’s decision broke.

The Health minister said that he was well aware that the public was disappointed.

“The negative discourse has not only had an impact on me, but it is also an impact on my family, but most of all, also it has tainted the teamwork of our government that is led by President Ramaphosa, in our continued efforts to fight COVID-19,” said Mkhize.

As revelations around the Digital Vibes contract continued, including assertions that the company bought his son a bakkie, he said that he spoke to his family about it and they were in agreement that these funds need to be returned.

4. GDP grew to 1%:

South Africa’s economy showed it was recovering following the blow it has taken from the Covid-19 crisis.

Stats SA says gross domestic product (GDP) grew 1% in the first quarter of 2021 translating into an annualised growth rate of 4.6%.

The statistics agency says finance, mining, and trade industries were the main drivers of output on the production side of the economy, while household spending and changes in inventories helped spur growth on the demand side.

Though this rise is the third consecutive quarter of positive growth, the South African economy still has some way to go to fully recover as it remains 2.7% smaller than it was in the first quarter of 2020.

Real GDP was R782 billion in the first quarter of 2020. In the second quarter, when lockdown restrictions were at their most stringent, economic output slumped to R652 billion. Economic activity has since increased, in line with easing lockdown restrictions, and real GDP has since risen to R761 billion in the first quarter of 2021.

“This level is roughly comparable to what the economy was producing in the first quarter of 2016 and is 2.7% down from the R782 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2020”.

Despite having a long way to go, the recovery is still widespread as eight of the ten industries recorded positive gains in the first quarter.

5. Threats to recovering economy:

South Africa’s GDP results for Q1 2021 are positive, with the outlook for the rest of the year also relatively encouraging, says economists at Nedbank.

However, a number of local issues threaten to derail the country’s good start to the year, the bank said in a research note on Tuesday (8 June). These include:

  • A lack of reliable and cost-effective electricity supply;
  • Frequent power outages (load shedding);
  • High unemployment;
  • Slow Covid vaccine rollout;
  • Slow implementation of structural reforms.

“From the production side, growth will be driven mainly by mining and manufacturing, buoyed by increased global demand and elevated commodity prices.”

“However, domestic structural issues will continue to undermine the upside. The most damaging constraint remains the lack of reliable and cost-effective electricity.

“Domestic demand will also improve off an extremely low base. Low-interest rates and firmer household finances should drive growth in consumer spending, which will underpin recoveries in domestic trade, finance, real estate and business services.

“Despite these anticipated improvements, consumer confidence will remain fragile, depressed by high unemployment and the slow vaccine rollout,” Nedbank said. “Little is expected from the government in 2021, given its stretched finances.”

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, TimesLive, Business Insider, EWN, and Moneyweb.

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