Tag: coronavirus

SA to remain on Lockdown Level 3

By  Marvin Charles for News24 

Cabinet has approved the decision to leave the country on adjusted Level 3 of lockdown restrictions.

It comes after the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) met earlier this week amid lower numbers of vaccinations being administered across the country.

As of yesterday, there were 14 000 new Covid-19 cases reported. The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape were still experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said: “Cabinet further approved the keeping of the country under the risk-adjusted alert Level 3 of the national lockdown, as advised by the Ministerial Advisory Committee. Cabinet encourages all unvaccinated people in South Africa to get vaccinated because vaccines protect us from getting seriously ill from Covid-19 and they save lives.”

Three weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa moved the country to alert Level 3 of the national lockdown following his meeting with the NCCC and the Presidential Coordinating Committee. He also announced the resumption of the sale of alcohol. He also announced the reinstatement of the R350 Social Relief Grant. It will run until March 2022.

He added that while sustained decreases in case numbers in Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga had been observed, the other five provinces were either increasing or sustaining numbers of new cases.

“The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces still appear to be on the upward slope of the third wave, although the Western Cape is showing early signs of reaching the peak of their third wave. Whereas the Free State and Northern Cape provinces continue to see a steady number of new cases,” Puren said.

 

Level 4 lockdown ‘will be extended’

Source: MyBroadband

The government will most likely extend the two-week adjusted level four lockdown regulations as Covid-19 cases in South Africa continue to rise.

This is the view of Hugo Pienaar, chief economist at the bureau for economic research at Stellenbosch University.

Pienaar said that when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the move to level four on 27 June 2021, the seven-day rolling average of new daily coronavirus cases was around 15 000.

“Yesterday, the seven-day rolling average was 19 100 and health experts tell us we are yet to reach the peak,” he said.

“Irrespective of the dire impact on the hospitality, liquor and aviation sectors, the state of the pandemic will make it very hard to relax the regulations by Sunday.”

Pienaar said the fact that an agreement has been reached to extend the Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) to employees affected by the level 4 lockdown gives a hint that the regulations will be extended beyond the initial two weeks.

The Ters will allow workers in industries affected by the lockdown to get part of their salary during this period.

Pienaar highlighted that South Africa has been in a similar situation during the second wave when harsher restrictions were kept in place longer than initially planned.

“We are very much in the same situation as then with the new variant driving cases,” Pienaar said.

“We are speculating, but if we throw all of this together, I think an extension is on the cards.”

Daily cases

Last week, South Africa recorded its highest ever number of new daily Covid-19 cases – 26,485 – with a positivity rate of 27.3%.

The Gauteng province accounts for the majority of new cases (61%), followed by the Western Cape (11%) and Limpopo (7%) provinces.

The increase in coronavirus cases came a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa placed the country under stricter lockdown.

Experts pointed out that the impact of the lockdown will only be felt this week as people only start to show symptoms a few days after they contract the virus.

The chart below provides an overview of the average daily positive Covid-19 cases per week, which Pienaar referred to.

By Rudolph Nkgadima for IOL

While Gauteng premier David Makhura considers imposing further restrictions in the province, in an effort to curb the increasing number of Covid-19 infections, some health experts are saying they will not be enough.

In the past few weeks, Gauteng has seen a sustained steady increase in Covid-19 cases and is the epicentre of the third wave, accounting for about 60% of the latest daily increase.

Welcoming the military health personnel deployed to help health-care professionals in the province on Monday, Makhura said a stricter lockdown could be announced soon as the number of new cases and hospitalisations continued to soar.

However, health expert Dr Kgosi Letlape said Gauteng was left with only one option.

“The only thing that we can resort to are the non-pharmaceutical intervention methods which have worked for us during the first and second wave. People should be behaving as if we are on level 5 because the numbers are too high,” he said.

Letlape said restrictions on social gatherings needed to be tightened.

Life Healthcare group chief executive Peter Wharton-Hood said further restrictions would not improve the situation.

“The infections are already in the system; a hard lockdown is not going to prevent the peak. The social consequences of a hard lockdown and the economic consequences are grave for those people who are not able to work,” he said.

“Prevention is better than cure. I think that the learnings of wave 3, for us, is a direct result of social behaviour and people not taking the necessary guidelines and following the obvious advice that has been given to them for months. Social distancing, wearing masks and responsible behaviour are the best ways to prevent this outcome,” he said.

The provincial coronavirus command council is set to meet on Tuesday when further restrictions are expected to be discussed.

 

Source: Forbes Communications Council

One of my favourite TikTok trends in recent weeks has been a series of posts where content creators list their “guidelines for return to the workplace” for employers. The tongue-in-cheek clips list some of the creature comforts that employees may or may not have become used to while working remotely over the last year, such as “business casual attire will now include sweatpants” or “it will now be acceptable to have a glass of wine by my computer throughout the day.”

I don’t anticipate that many organisations will give the okay for employees to swap coffee pots for carafes of merlot or sport joggers instead of slacks as offices reopen, but the humorous series of clips does raise a very real challenge. While the product and outcomes may be the same, the experience of working at home is very different from working in an office. It’s not just about having a different monitor or a different chair. The physical energy involved and the mental approach to work is different. In some ways, it’s much easier; in some ways, it’s more difficult.

While there are many employers that have declared their intentions for ongoing remote work scenarios, many other organisations are planning to bring employees back into a shared, physical office space sometime in the coming months as the Covid-19 vaccine gains adoption and we approach herd immunity. (It is worth noting that I believe this decision should be 100% up to each organisation based on their own unique needs and working arrangements. This article is not meant to advocate for or against in-person or remote work.)

This transition is one I experienced firsthand earlier in my career on two occasions. While I was working for two different PR agencies, my employers opted to close our existing offices for several months while staff worked in a completely remote environment. (In one case, this was due to a move, and in the other, it was for a building renovation.) Transitioning back to an in-office environment was not easy, but we followed a few key strategies that helped ease the shift. I believe these tactics can also help employees and leadership weather the coming transition as we return to the office.

Talk about your re-entry plan
Organisations should conduct thoughtful outreach to employees to lay out specific expectations for how and when employees will return to the office. In addition, it will make sense to use a phased approach in many cases where some employees rejoin the physical office immediately while others — perhaps those with small children who are still unable to return to school or those who are still at risk due to the virus — wait a bit longer. In this scenario, individual employees should connect with their managers to discuss their own personal re-entry plan.

Try to ramp up rather than dive in
We’ve all experienced the different types of energy we need when we’re working in our office as opposed to working from home. The reasons for this range from the added commute time to the energy required to engage in-person and the lack of creature comforts of home. (Even if the food is the same, eating lunch on my couch is more relaxing than eating at my desk or in the staff lounge.) Just like you would with any other physical demand on your body, be prepared for a few days of adjustment. Talk with your supervisor about ramping up. Maybe you could work in-office one day per week for a couple of weeks, then two or three, and then a full week.

Start adjusting your routine even while you are at home
When kids go back to school after summer vacation, many parents start incorporating elements of the new school routine during the final weeks of the break. Wake up when classes start. Practice eating breakfast by a certain time. Ween off of extra screen time. The same applies to reentering the office. When your employer starts discussing reentry, try to consider how you will need to adjust your schedule and start incorporating those elements into your routine now. Set your alarm earlier to account for your commute. Practice meal prepping and packing a lunch instead of just hitting the fridge. If you have been enjoying a lunchtime workout, consider where your workout will fit into your day once you go back to the office. Think through the little changes that may disrupt your flow and how you can adapt to them now.

Returning to the workplace, and all of the activities that we have missed out on over the last year due to the virus, could be a fun and exciting experience. By taking a thoughtful approach, we can help reduce our own anxiety, as well as the anxiety of our team, and create a smooth re-entry.

Dell, HP report sales boost on pandemic PC surge

By Nico Grant for IOL

Dell Technologies and HP reported quarterly revenue that topped Wall Street estimates, lifted by customer upgrades of personal computers for remote work and school during the pandemic.

Dell’s sales climbed 2.8% to $23.5 billion in the period that ended Oct. 30, the Round Rock, Texas-based company said Tuesday in a statement. Rival HP reported it shipped a record 19 million PCs in its recent quarter, as well as more home printers than it has sold in years. HP also gave a profit forecast for the current period that beat analysts’ projections and said it would raise its quarterly dividend 10%.

Michael Dell and HP Chief Executive Officer Enrique Lores are trying to revamp their PC makers into more profitable businesses. Both companies have taken steps to cut operating expenses during the pandemic, and they produced better-than-projected profits in the October quarter. Billionaire Dell is trying to spur more predictable, recurring revenue by letting corporate clients pay for products over time rather than upfront. Lores, meanwhile, is overseeing a corporate restructuring that will result in lower expenses and a smaller workforce.

“We are very optimistic about where the company is going to be going during the next quarters and years,” Lores said in an interview.

HP shares gained about 5% in New York trading, helped by the company’s announcement that it would boost the quarterly dividend to 19.38 cents a share. Dell shares fell roughly 2%. The stock is up more than 30% so far this year.

HP’s revenue fell about 1% to $15.3 billion in the period that ended Oct. 31, the Palo Alto, California-based company said in a statement. Analysts, on average, expected $14.7 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Profit, excluding some items, was 62 cents a share in the fourth fiscal quarter, while analysts projected 52 cents.

Adjusted profit in the current quarter will be 64 cents to 70 cents a share, HP said. Analysts, on average, estimated 54 cents.

Dell’s sales from consumer PCs jumped 14% to $3.5 billion in the fiscal third quarter, the company said. PC sales to business and government clients increased 5.4% to $8.78 billion. Server and networking sales fell 1.8% to $4.16 billion, the seventh consecutive quarter of year-over-year declines for the unit. Executives said they expect continued “soft” data-center spending in the current period. Storage hardware revenue declined 7% to $3.86 billion.

“I’m generally pleased with how the business performed,” Dell Chief Financial Officer Tom Sweet said in an interview. “We’ve got to continue to work our way through the uncertain environment. Given our broad, diversified portfolio, we have an ability to drive a consistent stable cash flow, consistent results.”

Dell said that it expected revenue in the current period to increase 3% to 4% compared with the third quarter’s.

Sales of HP’s Personal Systems, mostly computers, was little changed from a year earlier at $10.4 billion. Revenue from consumers jumped 24% while business sales decreased 12%. Printing revenue declined 3% to $4.8 billion. The company reported a 21% rise in consumer hardware sales and a 22% drop in hardware revenue from businesses.

While corporate customers aren’t buying printers with their offices closed or at reduced capacity, Lores said demand from consumers working at home was so strong that HP shipped 12 million printers in the quarter — the highest number since the corporate split from Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. in 2015.

The office of 2021

The coronavirus pandemic will have long-term effects on offices around the world, as the habits and routines developed over a century of work have seemingly vanished overnight.

“While the office has an important future, the 2021 version is likely to be markedly different: materials, layouts and even how we interact with it will all evolve,” says Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, one of South Africa’s largest workplace design specialists.

The office as a whole

Keeping the office as germ-free as possible will require material changes. Surfaces like unfinished wood, soft stone, and stainless steel can be breeding grounds for germs and bacteria and are on their way out.

“Offices might turn to furniture made of antimicrobial synthetic materials, plus metals like copper and brass for door handles and other high-touch surfaces.

Other touchpoints, like keypads and control panels for lighting, climate control, and AV systems, will likely be replaced with apps on employees’ phones,” Trim says.

Ultraviolet lights installed in ducts could purify air before it’s blown out onto the office floor. Architects might even make tweaks like curving the place where the floor meets the wall. This can eliminate corners that collect filth and germs, a practice that some hospitals have been using for decades.

Larger-scale changes may also be coming.

Says Trim: “With more employees working remotely, some desk space could be converted into more thoughtfully designed open spaces. And companies will certainly seek out offices with more access to outdoor space both as a means of social distancing and a way of making them more inviting to employees whose alternative is to stay home.”

From here on, the office will be purposely designed to be more than just a workplace, It will be a community place, a cultural place, a place of learning.

The workstation

For the sake of cleanliness, companies might have to reconsider the long-held tradition of assigned desks. Forcing employees to remove their belongings at the end of each day will allow for more effective cleanings that can’t happen when desks are covered with clutter.

“An alternative to that approach is to keep the dedicated work station but implement a ‘clean desk policy’: Each employee gets a cubby or locker in which to store things at the end of each workday, and desk surfaces are cleaned each night. The employee is then the only one in that space. There won’t be this introduction of another person sitting in that chair or touching those surfaces,” Trim said.

Adding more separation between workstations–something being done out of necessity in the short term, might become a long-term trend meant to give employees more privacy.

The remote-friendly workplace

“We’ve long advocated for choice in the office: you can sit in a lounge space or small huddle room or the outdoor patio, depending on what allows you to do your best work.”

Many more companies will update their office spaces so that the choice of workspace is not just a nice to have someday but it’s rather a must have soon. These changes will also be a major factor in businesses being able to attract and retain top talent.When we only come into the office a few days the quality at the office has to be exceptional. “It’s no longer about having just a gorgeous front entrance. It is now about giving your team the best facilities and environs for a great sense of purpose and that are better by degrees than what they can get at home, “ Trim concludes.

SA launches Covid-19 tracing app

Source: SA Coronavirus

South Africa’s COVID Alert SA app was released yesterday. Here’s all you need to know about SA’s new Bluetooth-based contact tracing app:

  • You can download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. It’s under 3 MB in size
  • The app is free and does not feature in-app purchases.
  • You will not have to pay for mobile data when you use the app – the data to use the app has been zero-rated by all of South Africa’s mobile network providers

What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is the process used by public health authorities to control the spread of epidemics and pandemics. It’s been integral to containing outbreaks such as that of the Ebola virus in 2014, of the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, and of tuberculosis (TB) and other infectious diseases that are highly contagious.

Contact tracing means healthcare workers identifying and interviewing those who have contracted a disease to identify their ‘close contacts’ – those they have been in close proximity to in the recent past and therefore possibly infected as a result of their close contact.

Why do we need apps to assist with the contact tracing process?
Manual contact tracing is a time-consuming, process that has its limits. The person who tests positive for COVID-19 needs to remember all the people they have been in close contact with for the past two weeks and their contact details, which is not possible for people they come into contact with in public places such as the grocery store or public transport.

Bluetooth contact tracing apps, like COVID Alert SA, replace the need for us to remember and identify close contacts by simply letting app users’ smartphones “say hi” to each other and keep a record of every time this happens.

And, really importantly, every app-user’s identity is kept private at all times.

How the COVID Alert SA app allows for Bluetooth contact-tracing

  • COVID Alert SA app uses Bluetooth signals to exchange ‘random codes’ (these are just random numbers that change several times a day) with other COVID Alert SA app users. That’s how the phones “say hi” to each other.
  • This happens when app users’ smartphones are within two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes.
  • This process happens whether app users are near to people that they know – such as when near to friends, family or colleagues – and people that they aren’t acquainted with – such as at the shops in a queue, or on public transport.
  • As long as the COVID Alert SA app is running on smartphones that are near enough to each other, they will share random codes – saying “hi” and giving each other a digital handshake.
  • The random codes exchanged at the time of the ‘digital handshake’ are stored in a log on each phone for 16 days.
  • At no stage is the identity and location of the device users required for this exchange to happen. All that the COVID Alert SA app tracks is the proximity of smartphone devices to one another and how long they are in contact for.
  • Then, when an app user contracts COVID‑19 and a test shows they have the disease, they can choose to anonymously report this information to the app community. That kicks off the Bluetooth-based contact tracing process.
  • Their smartphone uploads the random codes that it has on record from the past 16 days to the Exposure Notification Server.
    The Server sends these random codes to all of other app users.
  • Each app user’s device runs through these random codes to check for a match between these codes and the codes it has stored in the past 16 days (every time it has come into contact with another device using the COVID Alert SA app).
  • If there is a match, the device notifies the user that there they have potentially been exposed to COVID‑19, with the date on which they were in contact with someone who has tested positive.
  • App users also receive information on what to do next to self-quarantine (for 14 days), watch for symptoms of COVID-19, and to optimise their health and wellbeing.
  • This all happens in a way that preserves the privacy of every app user at all times.

By joining other COVID Alert SA app users, we can work together to stay safe, save lives and turn the tide on COVID-19 in South Africa.

 

 

Source: The Peninsula

South Africa will launch clinical trials of a US-developed coronavirus vaccine with 2,900 volunteers this week, the second such study in the African country worst hit by the disease, lead investigator Shabir Madhi said Tuesday.

Known as NVX-CoV2373, the vaccine was developed by US biotech company Novavax from the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.

It will be administered to the first volunteer in the randomised, observer-blinded trial on Wednesday.

“It’s a two-dose schedule, and they get two either vaccines or placebos… spaced three weeks apart,” professor Madhi of the Johannesburg-based University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), told AFP.

With 589 886 cases and 11 982 deaths, South Africa is fifth in global rankings for countries with the most infections.

Since the country also accounts for 20 percent of global HIV infections according to UNAIDS 2020 data, 240 medically stable, HIV-positive adults will also participate in the clinical trial.

“It’s critical that we understand how these vaccines work in populations that have HIV, especially in South Africa where they constitute up to about 12 to 15 percent of the adult population,” said Madhi.

Wits University said studies of the Novavax vaccine in non-human primates have shown protection against the coronavirus infection in nasal passages as well as protection against lung disease.

Partly funded by a $15-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the trials are part of a larger study to be launched throughout the world to involve approximately 30,000 participants.

In June, South Africa piloted its first trial of a vaccine developed by the Britain-based Oxford Jenner Institute.

Some 2,000 people were injected with the vaccine known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 with 50 of the candidates having HIV.

Source: Pipe Drive

No matter the size of your organisation, it’s likely you’ve been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s forced many of us to change the way we work and adapt to a sudden shift in consumer behaviour.

The COVID-19 outbreak showed us just how quickly life can change. One of the biggest impacts was made on the way we work, as well as the level and type of support our employees, customers and peers need from us.

Entire organisations have adopted remote working infrastructure at a rapid pace, ensuring those that have the ability to work from home can do so. Many were successful, while others are still overcoming teething pains.

So, what’s the best response to a crisis like this? How do we shift our behaviour and routines with minimal disruption?

In general, it’s great to have the tools and flexibility for remote working set up in your organisation, regardless of whether or not you will use them in your day-to-day. Having these infrastructures, technologies and processes in place is vital, especially when a major life event or public crisis keeps you or your team away from the office.

For example, sales teams must implement a stack that allows for both internal communication and reliable video calls with prospects.

Processes also need reviewing. What policies will you put in place to allow people to do their best work? For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak, many schools have been shut down. This means parents must strike a balance between work and looking after their children.

To respond to this, many organisations have adopted flexible working hours. As long as team members are available for two to three hours a day for communication, it doesn’t matter when they get their work done.

Audit the activities you conduct on a daily basis and see how you can optimise them for optimal remote working efficiency. Ask your team for their perspective, and allow them to contribute.

After all, these changes affect everyone in different ways. Take a dynamic approach and empower your team to perform to the best of their abilities.

Keeping your sales team safe, optimistic and productive
For salespeople used to the hustle and bustle of a lively office, the sudden change to remote working can be challenging. Not only do they need to find a new routine, but get a handle on new technologies for communication and collaboration.

This new, enforced way of working applies to sales managers, too. Your processes and training workflows must adapt; keeping salespeople motivated and engaged requires a different approach.

Making these changes doesn’t have to be daunting. As a sales leader, you have a responsibility to keep your team safe, create effective remote working policies and communicate them clearly.

Advise your team to follow their government’s guidelines and to do their best to stay out of harm’s way. You can help by ensuring they never need to break a recommended safety policy for work. This means implementing a 100% work from home policy, with guidance on how to maximiae productivity.

Luckily, getting your remote environment up and running is fast and simple.

Most importantly, expect pipeline volume to be volatile. Let your team know that this is OK and that you have a plan to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.

Reassuring customers and adjusting your sales messaging
Your customers will also feel the pain during times of crisis. Their priorities will shift, often overnight, as they face new and unexpected challenges.

As you help your team adjust to a new reality, no matter how temporary it may be, you must also do the same for your customers. The best philosophy to adopt? Serve first, then sell.

Yes, it’s important to continue closing deals. But there should also be a focus on helping customers and prospects that are facing new uncertainties in their lives.

For example, it’s wise to pause your cold email initiatives as a crisis breaks out. Standard messaging may seem tactless during this crisis. Instead, take this time to rework and re-frame your messaging to align with your customer’s most urgent needs.

But don’t leave them “on pause” forever. As people adjust, use that time to craft more value-driven and empathetic messaging. Once the workforce is more acclimated to this new reality, continue cold outreach initiatives with helpful content that customers and prospects can immediately benefit from.

It’s critical you communicate your company directives to your team. Make them aware that a new direction is necessary and outline a policy on what they should and shouldn’t be including in their messaging. Get them involved in the process so they not only have a sense of ownership, but also a duty to serve prospects.

Learn more about how to reassure customers and adjust your sales messaging in our guide here.

Managing your sales organisation during a health crisis
While cutting costs seems inevitable, it’s important that you continue executing revenue-generating activity.

We’ve identified three critical business-driven priorities for sales teams during this crisis:

  • Generate and communicate empathetic messaging to employees and your audience
  • Prevent pipeline decay
  • Identify new business opportunities
  • Depending on your industry, sales may drop. Adapting to sudden and temporary changes in consumer behaviour is an effective way to combat this. In the B2B world, your buyers will shift priorities to adapt and you must do the same.

Listen to and serve your existing prospects. How are they being affected by this health crisis and how can you help them beyond your sales processes? For example, if you usually share content with prospects, start collating timely information that impacts their industry and roles as it’s published from third party sources, and see if you can create or adapt your own.

New opportunities will also emerge. How can your product or solution serve your customers during this time? What features could be used to tackle these new challenges?

Capitalising on these opportunities requires a great deal of care and it can be tempting to jump toward discounting in order to tackle these issues. Resist this temptation and focus on how to best serve your customers instead.

Labour Law Advice has launched a Coronavirus Response Kit for the Workplace is a user-friendly, step-by step audio-video guide for employers and employees on:

• Corona relief benefit applications for employees
• Implementation of the numerous corona-related legal requirements
• Corona infection prevention mechanisms for the workplace, and
• A teamwork strategy for reducing the impact of coronavirus on business profits and jobs.

This audio-visual Kit can be used by employers to train their employees and:

• Provide them with the Knowledge necessary to deal with coronavirus
• Explain how to use their intelligence to apply this knowledge, and
• Show them how, through teamwork, staff and management can significantly reduce coronavirus’ damage to your business profits, jobs and salary payments.

The employees and profits of every business are being badly affected by the coronavirus. The more you help other businesses, the stronger will become the country’s economy on which your business and livelihood depends.

Please therefore inform everyone you can of this video guide which also makes a very valuable promotional gift for your clients and potential clients.

To watch a preview of this video guide and to find out how to acquire it, please visit this link.

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