CORONAVIRUS WEEKLY DIGEST #6

Ramaphosa tables a plan for recovery, grants extended after civil society call and Gauteng will repurpose field hospitals 

By Christi Nortier 16 October 2020

Compilation image by Sahra Heuwel

This week the focus was on the economy as Finance Minister Tito Mboweni requested a delay for the ‘mini Budget’ and President Cyril Ramaphosa tabled the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. Meanwhile, Gauteng said it would repurpose controversial field hospitals. In KwaZulu-Natal, municipalities have been found to be overstaffed and underprepared for the Covid-19 crisis. In Western Cape, authorities are tackling a ‘super-spreader’ event.  

Maverick Citizen’s Coronavirus Daily Digest has changed format to a Coronavirus Weekly Digest. Each Friday, the digest will summarise highlights from the previous week’s news about the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa. 

 Ramaphosa sets out an economic reconstruction and recovery plan

 The plan promises energy security in two years as well as 800,000 jobs by March 2021. In addition, R1-trillion will be funnelled into infrastructure by 2024. Ramaphosa presented the plan to a joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday. Marianne Merten writes: “And if what’s now called South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan looks and feels a bit like a bag of allsorts that’s because it is. In many ways it wants to build on existing plans, but accelerate implementation and delivery by tighter co-ordination within government – backed up by political will.”

Here Merten unpacks the complex politics around the plan.

The Covid-19 Special Grant of R350 will be extended for another three months, providing a lifeline for about six million people, including asylum seekers. This comes after more than 80 civil society organisations called for the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Special Grant and the Caregivers Grant to be extended beyond this month.

Notably, as Ed Stoddard writes, much was said about the creation of jobs in the public sector, however there were some mentions of what the plan might mean for the private sector. 

 

 Mboweni requests delay for Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni asked Parliament to delay the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement by a week from 21 October to 28 October 2020. This came 48 hours before Ramaphosa’s presentation of the ERRP to claw back the economy from the pandemic. As Marianne Merten writes, this is indicative of the country’s “messy political economy”.

 

Government’s loan guarantee scheme still struggling

In May, the government launched a loan scheme to help businesses pay salaries, rent and other expenses during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s been two months since the scheme was changed to improve its reach, but it is still facing a low rate of loan approvals and payments. About R180 billion is still sitting idle. Ray Mahlaka gets to the bottom of what’s (not) happening.

 

New data suggests an economic bounce-back

The BankservAfrica Economic Transaction Index has shown an improvement for the fourth consecutive month in September. This index is a measurement of economic transactions between South Africa’s banks. It is a major shift, but is not enough to get the economy back to the size it was in 2019. As Ed Stoddard writes, it is expected to take three years for the economy to recover to 2019 levels.

 

Civil society at Nedlac: who are they and what do they do?

Civil society is represented at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) through the Community Trust. But who is represented within that? This year, it has expanded to the Community Constituency Covid-19 Front Trust — to represent civil society in all things government and Covid-19. However, conflict between it and C-19 People’s Coalition is bubbling to the surface and impeding co-operation. Zukiswa Pikoli asked them to explain their roles and responsibilities in the crisis and beyond.

 

Covid Alert SA app still has a way to go a month after launch

It’s been just over a month since the Department of Health launched the Covid Alert SA app to improve its digital contact tracing system. More than 600,000 people have downloaded the app, but the team behind it say 10 million could download it within a week if there was a social movement behind it. Read here about how the app works, where it fits into contact tracing and whether or not people should be concerned for their privacy.

 

South Africa will have to think out of the box when a vaccine arrives

A Covid-19 vaccine is still on the distant horizon of 2021 or beyond, yet it is crucial for South Africa to start planning how to get it, who to give it to and how to get it to them. It will involve setting up a new way of inoculating adults. Aisha Abdool Karim unpacks the strategy so far.

 

Not-yet-built Gauteng field hospitals will be repurposed 

Gauteng’s ICU field hospital programme is still far from completion, but Premier David Makhura has promised the infrastructure will be “repurposed” according to guidance from clinicians. The provincial government has defended the programme as an investment in permanent infrastructure, but much remains unanswered about how the hospitals were designed and how tenders were awarded. Mark Heywood outlines the latest developments.

 

KwaZulu-Natal municipalities overstaffed and unprepared 

A new study has shown that some of KwaZulu-Natal’s municipalities have too many staff and were unprepared to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, municipal managers conceded that political leadership was “caught off-guard” by the disaster. Healthcare workers, councillors and communities need to be proactively trained for future disasters. Des Erasmus unpacks the numbers.

 

Emergency medics face a double danger

There have been 40 attacks on emergency medical staff in Western Cape since the start of lockdown. In addition, 251 have tested positive for Covid-19 and four have died. Attacks often occur in crime “red zones” and necessitate a police escort for the ambulance. As Suné Payne writes, provincial health authorities have told the Western Cape Parliament they are considering body-cams for staff and CCTV in ambulances.

 

Western Cape investigates ‘super-spreader’ event

Western Cape authorities are investigating a “super-spreader” event in Cape Town which led to 89 people, including 38 matric students, testing positive for Covid-19. During Premier Alan Winde’s weekly press briefing, the province urged everyone to take responsibility for stopping the spread of the virus. As Suné Payne writes, the province sees this as a wake-up call and plans to intensify health surveillance and messaging around personal responsibility.

 

Advice, hotlines and help to get us through the Covid-19 pandemic

Maverick Citizen has compiled a resource guide to navigating the endless websites and hotlines providing information and assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. Read it here for information on how to protect your rights, health, workplace, business and other things during this tumultuous time. MC

 

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