CORONAVIRUS DAILY DIGEST #42
Air pollution drops, illegal cigarette trade spikes and schools approach reopening
Things changed overnight in South Africa on 15 March when the national state of disaster was declared — and it won’t be the last time it does. Daily Maverick’s Daily Digest will provide the essential snippets of information about Covid-19 in South Africa each day. Read on to get the full picture.
“It’s this easy to buy cigarettes: A few WhatsApp messages, an order placed, an Uber-like delivery, and it’s done,” writes Ferial Haffajee in her investigation into how easy it is to buy cigarettes under lockdown Level 4. The prices are staggering, the delivery effortless and the networks are not new.
The National Command Council is accountable to Parliament, according to the Presidency on Saturday. This comes after advocates Nazeer Cassim and Erin Richardson raised questions about whether the council’s decisions were legally binding since some of its members are government ministers.
“Our ministers are reporting to Parliament and the president himself has received questions from Parliament. So, for as long as Parliament continues to function it is able to exercise oversight over the executive,” said Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko, according to Eyewitness News.
Air pollution levels have dropped by almost half in some parts of the country during lockdown, according to a study by local and British scientists. They say the drop is because of lower emissions from Eskom power stations and heavy industry, and less traffic. As Tony Carnie writes, air pollution is a killer in its own right – it causes about seven million premature deaths globally every year.
The Western Cape remains the province with the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 infections. So far, 5,307 people have been confirmed to have the virus, 102 have died and 1,739 have recovered.
In the Western Cape, educators were due to prepare for learners to return to school. Non-teaching and school-cleaning staff and school managers were meant to return on Monday 11 May, Western Cape MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer said on Friday 8 May while briefing the provincial legislature’s Covid-19 oversight committee. As Suné Payne reports, Schäfer said schools would be provided with the face masks, soap, thermometers and cleaning materials they need. However, the Western Cape Education Department has told schools to hold back a few days until Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga gives direction on the national level of preparations, according to News24 on Sunday.
On Sunday morning, it was announced that the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and travelled from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape under lockdown level 4 has increased from 80 to 137. The confirmed cases are centred around OR Tambo, Buffalo City, Amathole and Graaff-Reinet municipalities, according to provincial health MEC Sindiswa Gomba.
Meanwhile, the ANC in the Western Cape has appealed to the provincial government to move areas with high numbers of infections within the province back to Level 5. It suggested that areas such as Witzenberg and the Cape Town metro be considered.
Coronavirus hotspots like Cape Town, Johannesburg & eThekwini may require tighter restrictions.
“We will rely on your support and cooperation” pic.twitter.com/sYmwBcxHMu
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) May 10, 2020
In KwaZulu-Natal, two Netcare hospitals are preparing to re-open on Monday after being given the all-clear by the provincial health department. St Augustine’s Hospital and Kingsway Hospital closed in April after staff and patients tested positive for the virus. DM
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