CORONAVIRUS DAILY DIGEST #104
Allegations of corruption mar coronavirus efforts by KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, while Gauteng tries to predict its surge
On Wednesday, Dr Sibongile Zungu said she is up for the challenge of heading the Eastern Cape’s Covid-19 task team. However, past allegations of mismanagement and corruption trail her from KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Health. Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal has finally briefed the media on a report into ‘questionable payments’ of Covid-19 emergency funds. In Gauteng, questions arise over when its peak in infections can be expected.
Scroll through the gallery below to view the latest Covid-19 numbers available on 22 July at the district level. All maps are sourced from provincial health departments; however, the Free State and Limpopo did not provide an update by the time of publishing:
The Eastern Cape’s new Covid-19 task team is being headed by Dr Sibongile Zungu, who has a history of alleged corruption and mismanagement during her term as the head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health up until 2014. She is under investigation by the Hawks for possibly contravening the Public Finance Management Act and in January 2020 the public protector released a report which made findings against Zungu for her role in the procurement of mobile health units which were overpriced and lay idle. Des Erasmus spoke to Zungu about these allegations and her new task of mending mismanagement and corruption in the Eastern Cape.
Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has briefed the media on the long-awaited report into the misuse of Covid-19 emergency procurement funds. It acknowledged that the Department of Social Development had misused the funds, but cleared the Department of Education from allegedly buying personal protective equipment for schools at exorbitant prices. Premier Sihle Zikalala did not release the actual report.
As Des Erasmus writes: “The findings uncovered at least R29.4-million in questionable payments, but if one had to take into account the ease, and level of seniority with which the dodgy payments were processed, a deeper dive into the department would likely uncover graft on a far heftier scale.”
Read the story in full here.
In Gauteng, the models of provincial scientists estimate a September peak in Covid-19 infections. However, the national Department of Health says the province is peaking right now. Ferial Haffajee looks at the numbers and the potential impact of increased mobility post hard lockdown in the province.
The tourism industry has lost about R54.2-billion in revenue in the three months since the start of lockdown, according to Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. She was delivering her budget speech in the National Assembly on Wednesday. She said the industry faces a 75% reduction in revenue for 2020 and that 438,000 jobs are at risk. She reported that her department is working with stakeholders on a recovery plan to be submitted to Cabinet in August.
The Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme has been extended by another six weeks to 15 August 2020. Applications for April and May will close at the end of July and those already received will be processed. In addition, there is a policy review in the pipeline to extend social protection to the self-employed. Marianne Merten unpacks the ins and outs of what was discussed during Tuesday’s employment and labour Special Adjustment Budget debate.
Sixty percent of adults say that schools “should not reopen this year”, according to a survey conducted by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council. Only 13% agreed schools should open for all grades, which is the position of the government. However, 79% were “very concerned” that the “coronavirus situation will have a negative impact on their child’s education”. Researchers from the two institutions have analysed the full set of results.
Meanwhile, smokers have been faced with a 250% increase in the price of cigarettes since the sale of tobacco products was banned in March, according to new research by the University of Cape Town’s Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products. They found that the sharing of cigarettes has increased since the ban and 27% of smokers had tried to quit, but only a third of those were successful. About 93% of continuing smokers had bought cigarettes during a lockdown. Ed Stoddard delves into the numbers. DM/MC
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