Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS WEEKLY DIGEST #7

Ramaphosa defends a plan for recovery, some Covid-19 corrupters caught out and concern about a ‘second wave’

Ramaphosa defends a plan for recovery, some Covid-19 corrupters caught out and concern about a ‘second wave’

This past week, the focus was on the possibility of a ‘second wave’ crashing on South Africa. Meanwhile, some Covid-19 corrupters were caught out while a few got away. And President Cyril Ramaphosa defended his Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan in Parliament.

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

Murmurs of a ‘second wave’

In announcing his own positive Covid-19 test this week, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize warned that South Africa risks a “second wave” of Covid-19 if the public does not adhere to health guidelines such as washing hands, wearing masks and keeping a physical distance. Later in the week, new data suggested this second wave may well have hit the country already. New Covid-19 cases increased in recent weeks, as have excess deaths after weeks of calm.

The Scientists Collective have written about how to prevent or mitigate this resurgence. They explain what South Africa can learn from other countries and suggest a way forward in their latest advisory.

To understand key technical concepts such as herd immunity, individual immunity and collective immunity see this article by Professor Alex Welte.

Pandemic fatigue is setting in

A recent survey found that more and more people are adopting a relaxed attitude – or rather pandemic or caution “fatigue” – towards distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. People believe they are less likely to be infected and are increasingly putting themselves in crowded social situations where they are more likely to be infected.

In another survey, it has been found that almost a third of adults don’t wear a mask every time they leave home, despite this being mandatory. Mask wearing has stayed consistent from July to September, but it is not enough.

‘People before patents’ say academics, researchers and teachers

A group of more than 40 South African academics, researchers and teachers have joined the international support for the South African and Indian governments’ proposal that global intellectual property rights should not apply to Covid-19 medicines. In addition, this group argues these reforms must be applied to South Africa for it to be effective. Read their letter here. The proposal has appeared before the World Trade Organisation but failed to be passed, but has garnered the support of the World Health Organisation and the United Nations among hundreds of other organisations.

Covid-19 corrupters caught out

The Hawks have arrested a business owner who charged the OR Tambo District Municipality R4.8-million for a door-to-door Covid-19 awareness campaign. The owner of the Phathilizwi Training Institute, Phumza Portia Gambula, appeared briefly in the Mthatha Regional Court and was provisionally charged with fraud. As Estelle Ellis and Hoseya Jubase write, a forensic investigation found the company intentionally submitted fraudulent documents. In addition, the service was only partially delivered.

The Special Investigating Unit is investigating two-thirds of all Covid-19 contracts in the country. This amounts to R10.5-billion of the total R15.6-billion spent between April and August, by 930 service providers with dodgy contracts. Provinces are responsible for most of the dubious spending, with Gauteng in the lead then the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Marianne Merten unpacks the numbers.

Gauteng’s billion-rand ICU spend still unexplained

The companies which received tenders for a R1.2-billion Gauteng government project were chosen from a pre-approved list. The projects are still far from complete and may well end up being white elephants. The ICU field hospital programme is on the radar of the Special Investigating Unit, which the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development has cited as the reason for declining to answer important questions. Mark Heywood investigates.

Bandile Masuku and Khusela Diko suspended from party activities

Former Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and suspended presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko have been sent to the ANC’s provincial disciplinary committee for their role in the awarding of controversial PPE contracts. They have been told to “step aside” from party activities until the process is complete in order to “protect the integrity of the ANC and the affected comrades”. However, as Greg Nicolson writes, the saga is far from over.

Covid-19 revenue loss blamed for skyrocketing Joburg electricity bills

By April, Joburg had collected R2.83-billion from rates and utilities. This was far below its target of R3.54-billion. As Ferial Haffajee writes, it is likely that skyrocketing electricity costs are being used to make up for it. The electricity tariffs are now the most expensive in the country.

SA Human Rights Commissioner to take action on refugee Covid-19 grants

SA Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen has said he will speak to the Department of Labour to speed up the process of getting the R350 Special Covid-19 grant to asylum seekers. He was speaking after a seminar hosted by the Institute for Healing of Memories at the District Six Homecoming Centre in Cape Town. Here, about 20 refugees and asylum seekers from as far as South Sudan shared their frustrations in accessing documents and grants. As Sandisiwe Shoba writes, they cannot open bank accounts, access healthcare or enrol their children in school without this paperwork.

Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan goes to Parliament

On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa defended his Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan in Parliament against opposition criticism. He said what made his plan different is its “new determination”, which is underpinned by the participation of “social partners”. Marianne Merten outlines why it is in fact the Presidency that underlies the plan.

A group of 10 activists who have been working on issues affecting women and children have written an open letter to Ramaphosa on this plan. They urge him to put measures in place that will prevent further food insecurity and hunger. Read it here.

Western Cape sets out plan for a post-Covid world

On Wednesday, the Western Cape told Parliament it had lost 150,000 jobs but that its recovery will outpace the rest of the country. In addition, it is now battling numerous Covid-19 “bushfires”. Nevertheless, Premier Alan Winde is confident the province can keep it under control and pursue an economic recovery plan. It aims to claw back the jobs lost by the end of the year, invest in infrastructure and increase exports among others. However, as Suné Payne writes, Winde cautioned that budget cuts are a concern but the opposition say this is fearmongering and that the plan fails to address inequalities in the province. DM/MC

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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