Tag: covid-19

SA moves to Level 1

Source: BBC

President Cyril Ramaphosa last night announced that, following consultations with health experts and officials from across South Africa, the country would lower its current alert Level 2 to Level 1 from midnight on 20 September.

This means that, as of Monday 21 September:

  • Social, religious, political and other gatherings will be permitted, as long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue, up to a maximum of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors
  • The maximum number of people who can attend a funeral is increased from 50 to 100
  • Venues for exercise, recreation and entertainment – such as gyms and theatres – currently limited to 50 people, will be allowed to accommodate up to 50% of their venue’s capacity
  • The national 22:00 – 04:00 curfew will start two hours later
  • Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments
  • International travel would resume from 1 October. Those arriving in South Africa must present a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of travel.

A further stimulus package was being drawn up to rebuild an economy that has been savaged by the lockdown.

Examining your commercial space

The entrepreneurial world’s evolutionary pace has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Great commercial design is centred around accommodating clients, facilitating optimal workflow, and epitomising the company’s brand to communicate a sense of the company’s culture and ethos. The fundamentals of corporate design, though influenced by regulations, have not changed. Now more than ever, the call for businesses to focus on their employee’s wellness and productivity must be brought to the fore.

Here are the top seven elements to examine in your commercial space:

1. Analyse your daily operation, industry, and company culture to clarify your company’s mission and vision. Determining if staff working remotely is in line with your company’s core beliefs is important because values, such as inclusion and collaboration, are trickier to navigate in a remote working environment.

2. Start small. Cutting down on existing furniture, shuffling waiting areas and canteen areas around, modifying modular desks and introducing regulations like plastic screens will ensure compliance with limited spend.

3. Be creative with your design. Compliance does not have to be tedious. Ribbed, or coloured Perspex screens make for a unique and retro design feature in an office and popping a beautiful rental plant between desks on the left and right of individuals is a softer way to ensure social distancing.

4. Keep an eye out for a flexible landlord. Although, many have offered rental holidays or reductions to preserve their relationships with their tenant, if your landlord is not lenient, look for alternatives. Many landlords are offering flexible short-term leases of between 3 – 6 months to offer companies a grace period to recuperate.

5. Co-working offices are not as treacherous as you may think. Many are designed to accommodate private offices which could offer short term relief to your team. Co-working spaces are especially handy because of the facilities they offer that we may not have at home. These include being professionally cleaned regularly, having access to high speed uncapped WIFI, conference areas for teams and being quiet for focused work.

6. Formally assess your health and safety protocols. A safety officer can compare your company’s perception of health and safety with the reality and find invaluable discrepancies to give you a good idea of where to start modifying your space.

7. Redesign your team’s office with your teams’ input. Your space can be effectively and economically redesigned by getting your teams opinions of its current and future purpose. Collaborating with your colleagues, design consultants, and landlords will ensure compliance and efficiency for your team that is sustainable for years to come.

Successful businesses during the COVID19 pandemic have shown how valuable the ability to read the industry climate and how effective making micro-adjustments can be. Finding a space that balances people’s health, financial sustainability and beautiful design should not be underestimated in its power to help us settle into the “new normal”.

Source: FNB

The sustained reduction of interest rates and relaxation of lockdown levels is providing a significant boost to the recovery of average income and cash flow among salaried middle-class consumers who hold full-time or formal employment. This is according to FNB insights based on the income trends among its Retail and Private Banking customers who earn a monthly gross income of between R10 000 to R60 000.

The Bank states that the financial position of the average middle-income customer is now approximately on par with levels recorded in February 2020, before the implementation of the national lockdown. Additionally, spend patterns of consumers are showing recovery with most categories like groceries and entertainment back to normal except categories like travel that are still significantly lower due to the travel bans instituted during lockdown. In contrast, average income among informally employed and self-employed consumers continues to lag, as a result, this income group may take longer to regain their usual average income levels.

Chief Executive of FNB Retail and Private Banking, Raj Makanjee says: “The lockdown has been the toughest experience for consumers, emotionally and financially. However, the income recovery and improving cash flow among middle-income consumers bodes well for the economy as middle-class consumers have significant spending power. The timely adjustment of interest rates has been instrumental in cushioning consumers who are servicing debt against severe financial difficulty. Similarly, our Cashflow Relief measures have allowed our customers who earned partial or no income during lockdown levels 4 and 5, to manage the impact of this difficult period on their finances,” he says.

According to FNB, the average income of consumers who are employed by SMEs (employing less than 10 people) was impacted the most over the course of lockdown. The Bank estimates that one in two of people employed by these SME businesses have seen a drop of at least 15% in average income. However, only one in five of those employed by larger companies (1000 employees or more) experienced an average income drop of 15% or more.

While the current income recovery trend is encouraging, the Bank is aware that consumers continue to face difficulties as COVID-19 is still part of our everyday reality. As a result, it continues to avail its resources and platform to help customers with money management across its Retail and Private Banking areas. FNB has also initiated money management conversations and interventions to help its customers in making smarter decisions about their finances, find practical ways to free up cash flow in this period and educating customers on their finances to ultimately enable them to make informed decisions.

“By having these meaningful conversations, we gain better understanding of our customers’ situations and have greater insight to practically assist them with freeing up cash flow. Specific spending solutions across our customers’ credit, essential and lifestyle spending are assessed for each customer to determine how best we can assist them, furthermore, we are helping customers to align their spending to the things that are important to them in order to achieve their financial goals.

Additionally, our eBucks Rewards continues to provide real help and timely relief to customers during this period. We’ve also expanded our eBucks benefits for seniors to offer extra support to our senior customers. In the coming weeks, we expect to introduce more platform-based tools to give customers even more control over their budgets” adds Makanjee.

OKI to stop selling printers in the Americas

OKI Data Americas has announced that effective 31 March, 2021, they will no longer distribute printer hardware under the OKI brand to the North, Central and South American markets.

This includes all LED-based single and multifunction, as well as dot-matrix (SIDM), printer hardware.

“This year OKI embarked on a new three-year mid-term plan that would reposition our company for sustained growth and long-term profitability by shifting our focus from a transactional selling approach to value-added sales and service delivery,” said Sergio Horikawa, President & CEO, OKI Data Americas, Inc. “Although we made significant progress in the execution of this plan, considerable shifts in printer market demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reevaluate our ability to achieve the mid-term plan. After assessment by our management teams in the Americas and Japan, it has been determined that a new path forward is required resulting in today’s announcement.”

OKI Data, or selected partners, will continue to provide consumables, parts, and warranty services to the Americas markets as required by relevant countries and states to effectively support our current installation base. OKI will continue to work with our distribution partners to forecast, purchase and fulfill shipments to maintain inventory levels that meet on-going market demand.

“I want to reassure our resellers, partners and end customers that OKI is committed to continuing to provide the necessary consumables, parts and service to keep our printers operational for years to come,” said Horikawa.

This announcement impacts the Americas market only. OKI’s domestic (Japan) and other overseas markets will maintain their current business course and strategy. Global OEM arrangements and the distribution of specific value-added product lines, that impact the Americas, will be directly managed by OKI Data Corporation in Japan.

By Mfuneko Toyana for Reuters

Africa’s most industrialised nation has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, recording the seventh-largest number of cases worldwide, although it has seen fewer deaths than some other badly affected countries.

Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted a 47.3% contraction because of the lockdown restrictions, which were among the harshest in the world.

“This is the first time in history that the South African economy has contracted for four straight quarters,” Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke told a news conference.

The rand fell roughly 1% against the dollar on the dismal data to trade at 16.9325 per dollar.

Joe de Beer, another top official at Statistics South Africa, said that after adjusting for inflation the economy was roughly the same size in the April-June quarter as in the first quarter of 2007.

Most sectors declined steeply except for agriculture, which grew 15.1% in the second quarter from January-March, helped by fruit and nut exports, and better-than-average winter rainfall.

Mining declined 73.1%, manufacturing 74.9% and construction 76.6%. Gross domestic product (GDP) for the whole economy shrank 17.1% from the same period in 2019.

Jeff Schultz, economist at BNP Paribas, said the global impact of the pandemic coupled with the recent return of power cuts by ailing state utility Eskom would hamper any economic recovery.

“It will take a very long time to get to pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

The government expects a GDP decline of at least 7% in 2020, a worrying prediction in a country where unemployment was at around 30% before COVID-19.

Pamela Mutandwa, 37, who runs a roadside vegetable stand in Pretoria, said times were hard. “It was really difficult during lockdown. There were no people buying and I struggled. When I opened in 2009 there were more customers.”

Tlouama Abrama, 31, a petrol attendant, said he was disappointed by the government’s economic policies. “They should be doing more to revive the factories around here so people can get jobs. Their policies are not working.”

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.

 

 

“Rogue” industries may be subjected to stricter lockdown rules, after numerous reports of non-compliant restaurants and pub have surfaced.

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has appealed to restaurants to comply with safety regulations for the good of the sector, according to News24. This follows numerous complaints from citizens, patrons and employees of non-compliance.

Wendy Alberts of RASA (the Restaurant Association of South Africa) issued the following plea to restaurants:

It is with a heavy and concerned heart that I write this message today.
It has become apparent that various owners believe that the current regulations do not apply to them. We have worked so hard to open our sector and much heartache has been caused due to the restrictions and full closure of our beautiful restaurants.
To date we have had reports of restaurants operating past curfew, ignoring the social distancing protocols and not ensuring masks are used etc. These incidents have sprung up all over social media and has since garnered the attention of the Minister of Tourism and the NCCC.
Due to these infractions, consideration is being held to impose stricter protocols or even reverting to off-site consumption and even to close the restaurant sector. It is unthinkable that due to a few operators not following the rules the entire industry may suffer again.
As unfortunate as it is, we must therefore encourage the reporting of non-compliant restaurants so that we can save the industry as a whole.
We urge everyone to follow the regulations and hope that everyone stays safe.

In a separate report, News24 said that Ekurhuleni police had visited 102 pubs, and found only 9 to be in adherance with Covid-19 regulations.
This was part of an operation where Ekurhuleni police arrested 265 individuals over the weekend for crimes including drunk driving, possession of narcotics and theft.

CEO bloodbath in South Africa

Source: MyBroadband

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have put tremendous pressure on companies, with tough trading conditions and dwindling revenues.

Many industries were prevented from operating or were only allowed limited operations, during alert level 4 and 5 of the lockdown.

In an attempt to stave off retrenchment, many companies introduced salary cuts and short time, but in some cases, it was not enough.

The tough trading conditions, combined with political and economic uncertainty, took their toll on executives.

Since the lockdown started in March, many South African CEOs have announced their resignations.

While many of the resignations are directly linked to the lockdown, others most likely considered it previously and saw the lockdown as an opportune time to step down.

Here is a list of prominent chief executives who have announced their resignations in recent months:

Webafrica CEO Tim Wyatt-Gunning
Wyatt-Gunning stepped down on 1 July 2020 and was replaced by Sean Nourse, who has served as MWEB CEO for the past three years. Wyatt-Gunning has been Webafrica CEO since October 2011, and said it was the right time to find a successor with fresh ideas.

Liquid Telecom South Africa CEO Reshaad Sha
In June, Reshaad Sha announced that he had resigned as Liquid Telecom South Africa CEO to head up a new artificial intelligence venture.
Sha was appointed as the CEO of Liquid Telecom South Africa on 1 June 2018, where he was responsible for the company’s successful turnaround plan.

Net1 CEO Herman Kotze
In August, Net1 announced that its CEO and director Herman Kotze would step down at the end of September.
Kotze has been at Net1 for over two decades and will consult with the company to ensure a smooth transition.

Jasco Electronics CEO Mark Janse van Vuuren
Jasco Electronics CEO Mark Janse van Vuuren resigned on 31 May 2020 following a restructuring of the company.
Janse van Vuuren has been at the company for 12 years and resigned to pursue new interests.

Uber Sub-Saharan Africa GM Alon Lits
Uber Sub-Saharan Africa GM and director Alon Lits announced in July that he is leaving the company after seven years.
Lits was part of Uber’s first venture into Africa in Johannesburg in 2013 and rapidly expanded Uber across 15 other cities in Sub Saharan Africa.

MTN CEO Rob Shuter
In March, MTN announced that its group president and CEO Rob Shuter will be stepping down from his role at the end of his contract.
In August, MTN said Ralph Mupita has been appointed as president and CEO of MTN Group effective from 1 September 2020, with incumbent CEO Rob Shuter set to step down on 31 August.

Denel CEO Danie du Toit
In July, Denel announced that CEO Danie du Toit will step down on 15 August 2020. It did not give reasons for du Toit’s departure.
Denel, which manufactures aerospace and military hardware, has been struggling financially and had difficulties paying salaries.

Spur CEO Pierre van Tonder
Spur CEO Pierre van Tonder announced in July that he had resigned after working at the company for 38 years. He served as Spur CEO since 1996.
One month later, the restaurant chain announced that its COO, Mark Farrelly, has resigned with effect from the end of August.

AngloGold Ashanti CEO Kelvin Dushnisky
AngloGold Ashanti CEO Kelvin Dushnisky announced that he would step down for personal reasons on 1 September 2020.
Dushnisky, who is currently with his family in Toronto, said he is available to assist with a smooth handover until February 2021.

Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland
Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland announced he will be stepping down in 2021 after leading the company for 13 years.
The company’s Cheryl Carolus said a global search for a suitable replacement will commence soon.

Delta Property Fund CEO Sandile Nomvete
Property Delta CEO Sandile Nomvete and CFO Shaneel Maharaj resigned with immediate effect on 24 August 2020.
The company’s chief operating officer and chief investment officer, Otis Tshabalala, also resigned.

Metair CEO Theo Loock
In May, Metair CEO Theo Loock announced he has decided to take early retirement and will step down on 31 December 2020.
Loock will also step down as chairperson and non-executive director of all Metair subsidiaries and associated companies.

By Jack Needham for Wired

A survey from Morgan Stanley’s research unit AlphaWise, conducted in mid-July, found that only 34 per cent of UK ‘white-collar’ workers had returned to work, and for city workers that’s only one in six. As the BBC also reports, 50 of the biggest UK employers have no plans to ask all staff to the office full-time in the near future.

Workplace anxiety may be the driving factor in this. A ManpowerGroup survey, published last week but carried out in June, found that staff in the US and UK were both less confident about returning to work and more fearful of a second Covid-19 wave compared to Germany, France, Italy, Mexico, Singapore and Spain.

It begs the question, why return at all? Sally Carthy, director of client services at the Stafford firm Carthy Accountants, recently took the decision to get her team of 15 back into the office. She points to a few reasons why. After months of virtual meetings Zoom fatigue had set in deep – “our clients wanted to come into the office to see people,” she says – and almost half of her team requested to be back at their desk before their proposed return date of August 3, yearning for the “camaraderie” Carthy says the office provides.

Some staff members lived by themselves and found their lockdown 9-5 far too lonely, says Carthy, and others in the early stages of their careers felt they were lacking guidance and supervision.

For the most part it’s been business as usual, with the only major changes being an office one way system and extra cleaning duties. Still, Carthy experienced some pushback from staff. “Some found working at home to be enjoyable, became very used to working in home clothes and expressed some reluctance to return to the office,” says Carthy. “They all came back without too much trouble.”

Returning to the office was compulsory for staff, however Carthy says she “would have responded appropriately had anyone had specific health or other reasons for not returning”.

Given that they have worked productively from home since March, many office workers may believe the rush to go back to the office is pointless.

The figures are persuasive: although working from home fatigue is setting in, a study from social media platform Buffer, and job site AngelList! found that 98 per cent of people would like the option to work remotely for the rest of their careers. That may be down to increased productivity, a better work-life balance or the fact that, as a recent survey conducted by Culture Shift found, 26 per cent of tech workers are receiving passive-aggressive comments less often.

Working from home also helps stop the spread of the virus. A study from the University of Sussex found that a 30 per cent reduction in workplace interactions is forecasted to result in a 62 per cent reduction in new infections and a 54 per cent reduction in new deaths by the end of 2020, compared with no additional interventions.

Nobody wants to breath recycled air during a pandemic but raising safety concerns to a superior is a daunting task, and convincing your boss to let you stay at home and avoid a packed 7am pacer train is a hard sell. Can you refuse to return?

“If an employee is worried about catching coronavirus by going into work then they should talk to their employer as early as possible and discuss what options may be available,” says Tom Neil, senior adviser at ACAS, an independent advisory for employer and employee rights.

Neil suggests that this could include continued working from home, changing working hours or looking at other flexible working arrangements. If concerns can’t be resolved through an informal chat then it is possible for employees to raise a formal grievance, which must be followed if an organisation has a grievance procedure.

Concerned employees can also contact their HR department or union, if they have them.

To avoid staff mutineers, Laura Kearsley, partner & solicitor at Nelsons law firm, suggests that employers must be open with employees about safety measures, share risk assessments to reassure employees and take employee concerns on board before the doors open. “This is likely to be more effective than a blanket instruction to attend or an outright refusal to do so,” she says.

If all that fails, however, then the law is on the side of the employer. “Employees will usually be in breach of their employment contract if they refuse to attend work,” says Neil. “If an employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason it could result in disciplinary action.”

Ultimately, the employers have the power, so the best advice is to hope yours are good ones. If they’re not, then employees may be nervous about approaching the question of working from home for fear of retaliation, which could have wider consequences.

“Covid morbidity is going right under the radar in many cases,” says Andrew Watterson, professor of health sciences at the university of Stirling. He explains how staff who are forced to return to the office may not disclose Covid symptoms for fear of dismissal or loss of work, especially those in precarious or zero hour jobs. “There are good employers, but the bad ones may force workers to cover up sickness because sick pay is poor, benefit support is inadequate and furloughing and other schemes are ending.”

This could put employees in “double jeopardy” says Watterson, placing them at risk of contracting the virus in offices while encouraging them to continue working when sick. But rushed return to work measures could also hit businesses where it hurts: financially.

If an employee contracts Covid in the workplace they may be entitled to take their employer to civil court for negligence or harm caused in the workplace. A successful case would be difficult to achieve, though. An employee would need to prove they had been exposed to Covid in their workplace and Covid-19 is not yet classed as an occupational disease which, if it were, would help workers gain compensation if they contract it.

Within this minefield of grey area legislation and workplace pressure, people have little option to follow the rules and avoid posting incriminating evidence on social media.

TERS payments suspended with immediate effect

Source: NEASA

The Department of Employment and Labour has suspended all TERS payments that are currently outstanding.

The Department has identified a number of anomalies in respect of past payments made to persons who are deceased, imprisoned or minor.

The Department will be comparing its database with that of the Department of Home Affairs in order to rectify this situation going forward.

It is unclear for how long payments will be suspended.

Cash-strapped employees struggled to apply for TERS benefits in July, amid a series of hiccups within the system.

Moneyweb previously reported that applications for May opened late, as well as June applications, which were closed shortly after due to security breaches. The system only came back online in the second weekend of July.

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