Tag: lockdown

Lockdown now due to be ‘reviewed’ by 3 October

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa was moving down a lockdown level, from Level 3 to Level 2, in a mid-September address to the nation, he offered hope that even less strict rules could be just around the corner.

“These measures will be reviewed in two weeks time depending on the state of the pandemic,” he said, after detailing the new curfew, limits on gatherings, and rules for alcohol sales.

That promise was made formal in regulations published on the same night, on 12 September with just a little more detail: the regulations would be “reviewed and amended where necessary”, and that would be done within two weeks of their publication, so the count would start on that day, said co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

That deadline fell on Sunday, 26 September.

But instead of a review of lockdown, the government simply pushed out the deadline.

In a notice signed by Dlamini Zuma on the same long-weekend Sunday, she rubbed out that 12 September sub-section and replaced it with a one-week countdown starting immediately.

That sets the new review date for Adjusted Alert Level 2 – with the expectation that it would be reduced to Level 1 – on Sunday, 3 October.

However, there appears to be no reason the deadline can not again be extended, by the same simple method of decree, either before that date or at the last second again.

After rapid evolution over the last 15 months, Alert Level 1 is now expected to maintain the requirement to wear a mask while in public, and to demand Covid-19 tests from everyone entering South Africa, but to have little further impact on daily life.

 

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.

 

Kulula flights stopped until September

Source: MyBroadband

Comair has extended the suspension of Kulula.com and British Airways flights until 31 August 2021, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that South Africa will remain on lockdown level 4.

Comair said the prohibition of all non-essential travel in and out of Gauteng means there is limited demand for business travel.

Comair suspended all scheduled flights from 5 July 2021 with the intention to start flying again on 30 July 2021.

However, given the uncertainty of the expected length of the recently adjusted level 4 lockdown, Comair decided to suspend flight operations until 31 August 2021.

“This decision has been taken in the interest of the well-being of employees and customers,” Comair said.

“Without Government engagement with or support for the aviation sector and associated services, the ability to plan constructively for a meaningful service beyond 30 July 2021 is exceptionally challenging.”

“Taking the potential variables into consideration, Comair plans to resume scheduled operations on Wednesday 1 September 2021.”

Comair CEO, Glenn Orsmond, apologised to customers affected by the suspension, adding that the decision was not made lightly.

Tickets for travel with Kulula.com from 28 June 2021 to 31 August 2021 will remain valid for 12 months until 31 August 2022. No change of booking fee or fare difference will be charged.

 

As many South African workers continue to work from home, many feel increasingly tired, stressed and uncertain about the future which is leading to rise in mental health concerns.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says: “Coronavirus and the imposition of lockdowns year has significantly raised mental health challenges.

“These are some of the major factors that have contributed to the stress and anxiety during this time:

  • Disrupted work-life balance: Balancing the work and personal life has become a major issue during this period. Extended hours of work just to finish off the task has led to the severe disruption of work-life balance.
  • Uncertain future: “Uncertainty about one’s career prospects for the future can be frustrating and worrying,” Trim said. “And it’s especially challenging for younger workers trying to learn from more experienced workers and trying to get ahead in their careers.”
  • Financial uncertainty: The economic impact of lockdowns has proved ruinous for many economies. “Many people live in fear of losing their jobs,” said Trim.

But there are ways to push back against the anxiety. This is how you can preserve the mental health while working from home:

Have separate areas for work and play: It is recommended to have a dedicated workspace to help you stay focused when working remotely.
“Having separate areas for work and play also makes it easier to mentally move from work mode to home mode,” says Trim.

Don’t use your work computer in your free time: Just like having different locations for work and private life, it’s important to separate your work tools from your play tools. The most obvious example is your laptop. “If you can afford it, make sure you don’t use the laptop where you are drafting your best selling novel for any other activity,” Trim advises.

Go for a walk after the workday is over: “If it’s safe and you can observe covid rules, go put for a walk or bike ride as soon as the workday is over. This will help you mentally switch to ‘home mode’ by getting you focused on a different activity, thereby relaxing your mind,” says Trim.

Do exercise to keep both your body and mind healthy: If you cannot or are worried about going out, do some exercises or stretches at home. Not only will physical activity help you divert your mind from work, but it will help you stay in shape and help you relax.

Plan your after-work time: When everyone is locked in and there isn’t much life outside your home, it’s difficult to break yourself away from work. Says Trim:” It’s essential to keep a check on what you are doing after work. Make plans beforehand so that it makes you look forward to finishing off the work.”

“It’s also really important to stay in touch, keep connecting and talking to each other, particularly friends and family,” Trim concludes.

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.

Source: Devdiscourse

Police Minister Bheki Cele has warned that transgressors of Adjusted Alert Level 4 regulations will leave law enforcement with no option but to effect arrests.

Cele made the declaration while addressing reporters during a National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) briefing, after President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday moved the country to Adjusted Alert Level 4, amid a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections.

“Law enforcement is up to the task. Their aim is not to arrest and criminalise people in mass,” said the Minister.

“As a country, we are all wiser to the effects of this deadly virus. We all know the pain and destruction COVID-19 continues to cause us as a nation and I am confident, there will be more compliance to the regulations set out to save lives.”

Non-compliance with the regulations carries an option of a fine or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both. Since 27 March last year, police had arrested 465 098 citizens who have been charged with the contravention of the Disaster Management Act. Of these, 7 439 of them were nabbed during adjusted alert Level 3 which commenced on 16 June 2021.

“Police will continue to monitor compliance through targeted operations, which will be intensified in hotspot provinces. Community members are also encouraged to continue to be instrumental in reporting the flouting of the regulations,” he said.

He warned that reckless calls for mass contravention of the Disaster Management Act would not be tolerated, saying “police will act decisively against anyone who deliberately and unashamedly contravenes the regulations”.

He added: “In the same breath, let me emphasize, that mass gatherings are not only prohibited but are criminalised under Adjusted Alert Level 4.

“Political leaders of all parties are urged to act responsibly during this time and be reminded that no amount of political mileage is worth people’s lives.”

During the briefing, Cele welcomed the upcoming commencement of the inoculation of security personal. The sector will begin administering jabs from 5 July.

He said the Ministry had already received a comprehensive briefing from the SAPS management in this regard.

“We are satisfied that the inoculation of over 180 000 SAPS members and supporting staff will go ahead as planned.”

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 666 police officers since the country recorded its first case in March last year.

“While we gear up for the vaccination of officers in the frontlines, we know that for the next two weeks it will not be business as usual as we operate under Adjusted Alert Level 4.

“Over and above the national vaccination program that is underway, breaking the chain of transmission by reducing person-to-person contact remains a priority as government, if we are to flatten the curve,” he said.

 

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: MyBroadband

New Covid-19 variants which have been detected in South Africa and concerns of a big third wave have prompted calls for stricter lockdown rules.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has recently confirmed that four South Africans have tested positive for the COVID-19 B.1.617.2 variant.

This is the variant is more contagious and is fuelling the spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths in India. There is also speculation that it may bypass vaccine protections.

Another variant that is currently dominating Covid-19 infections in Europe and North America, B.1.1.7 has also been detected in South Africa.

Eleven cases of B.1.1.7 have been confirmed – eight in the Western Cape, two in Gauteng, and one in KwaZulu-Natal.

The detection of these new Covid-19 variants comes amidst a rise in infections in South Africa and concerns about a third wave.

Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize has expressed concern over the increase of Covid-19 cases in the country in the past two weeks.

Mkhize said the Free State, Gauteng, Northern Cape, and North West provinces are of particular concern.

Numerous districts in these provinces have been flagged by the NICD and have been placed “under observation” due to an appreciable rise in the 14-day average percent change.

The Free State Health Department has already announced that the province is officially experiencing a third wave.

Departmental spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said last week they have seen a “shocking rise of infections”.

“Our current ability to treat people may not last if unnecessarily stretched to the limit by non-adherence to Covid-19 measures,” he said.

There has also been a rise in case in Gauteng which Professor Adrian Puren from the NICD said could be a sign of a third wave.

Predictive modelling by the NICD showed Gauteng is at the highest risk of having a particularly devastating third wave.

This is because of its higher concentration of working-age adults and people with co-morbidities in the province and the lower estimates of seroprevalence.

On the back of the increase in Covid-19 cases and concerns around the new variants, experts are now calling for stricter lockdown rules.

At the end of April, Bloomberg reported that the South African government was considering introducing additional measures to stave off a third wave.

“We have received an advisory from the ministerial advisory council that we have to consider some restrictions and we are now going through that,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

Professor Alex van den Heever from the Wits School of Governance echoed Mkhize’s concerns in a Cape Talk interview in March.

He explained the problem is that people’s behaviour might go back to what it was in October and November last year, which will result in another surge.

He said the country is nowhere close to dealing with the problem and that not enough people will be vaccinated in South Africa this year to reach herd immunity.

To vaccinate the majority of the population by the end of the year, South Africa has to vaccinate around 200,000 people per day. This is not happening.

Speaking to Business Day TV this week, Van den Heever said there is a high probability of a third wave which will be driven by people’s behaviour.

He said there should be a strong focus on limiting large gatherings. “If we can address gatherings, we will reduce the possibility of a third wave,” he said.

Winter periods make it difficult to contain the virus, which means that even with restrictions it is challenging to avoid another wave.

“It is not the variants which are going to cause a third wave, but the variants will be part of a wave,” he said.

“If we have super-spreader events which involve one of those variants, it may become the dominant variant which we experience.”

He said the delay in South Africa’s vaccination programme means it will not be in time to help with a third wave.

“We will have to face this wave with restrictions – the way we have done in the past,” Van den Heever said.

He said South Africa may have to consider restrictions “pretty soon” in Gauteng and the Free State if we continue to see infections rise.

The Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) said while the country is unlikely to escape a third Covid-19 wave, the severity in terms of confirmed cases, hospital admissions and deaths will depend on its timing.

ASSA working group member Adam Lowe said evidence from around the world indicate that the quicker the third wave follows the second wave, the less severe it is likely to be.

According to Lowe, South Africa could experience one of three scenarios:

  • An early third wave in May (most likely) – an early third wave is expected to be less severe than the second wave and is most likely to materialise in May 2021. Not only does historical precedent set by the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 and 1919 support this scenario, but it is also a realistic expectation given the public holidays and school holidays in April.
  • A delayed third wave (less likely, but not impossible) – a third wave of similar magnitude to the second wave becomes more likely the longer the peak is delayed. A more severe third wave would be likely to peak in late winter (July/August) at the earliest.
  • Worst case scenario (very unlikely) – a large and sudden third wave could be possible if available patterns and interpretations of patterns prove to be flawed.

The worst-case scenario can occur if the number of people infected in the first two waves was over-estimated, or through a series of super spreader events.

The super-spreader events can be a result of reduced vigilance on the part of a population which has been locked down for over a year, Lowe said.

 

Retailers pessimistic about the future

By Lameez Omarjee for News24

A potential third wave of Covid-19 infections, and possible renewed restrictions will likely harm the retail sector and traders are generally pessimistic about the future.

The trade sector reported declining confidence across the board according to the retail trade survey for the first quarter of 2021, which was released by the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) on Tuesday. During the quarter, the country moved from lockdown level 3 restrictions – in which an alcohol sales ban and a lengthened curfew was implemented in January and February – to lockdown level 1 in March. Most of the responses were received during the last two weeks of February, when the peak of the second wave of Covid-19 infections had passed.

“As expected, the trade sector experienced another tough start to the new year. Much of the performance of the sector still largely reflects a Covid-19 narrative.

“Be it in terms of its restrictions on trade or its impact on the labour market, the pandemic’s sustained influence on business and consumer sentiment remains concerning amid the uncertainty about its trajectory,” the report read.

After making a recovery from its 29-year low of 11 points in the second quarter of 2020, to 50 points by the fourth quarter, retailers’ confidence levels declined by 13 points to 37 during the first quarter of 2021.

“This was to be expected considering that much of the momentum gained in the final quarter of last year was from pent-up demand for alcohol, anticipated festive season sales and the vital social grant top-ups, which all petered out by the first quarter,” the report read.

During the fourth quarter, retailers also benefitted from demand in durable goods – related to home improvements and home office equipment and furniture, but this was reversed during the first quarter. Sales volumes of durable goods and semi-durable goods, such as clothing, footwear, sporting equipment, declined. Sales volumes of non-durable goods like foods, beverages, tobacco, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics sales volumes held steady.

Price increases

“… Retailers in general kept selling prices elevated, and durable goods retailers in particular hiked their prices,” the report read. Price hikes are linked to increases in import prices and high food inflation. “Costs associated with Covid-19 related hygiene protocols also remain an extra expense to retailers. Looking ahead, rising fuel and electricity prices will also have an impact on prices,” the report read.

Wholesaler confidence levels remained relatively flat, declining from 59 points in the previous quarter to 58 points, this despite a deterioration in business conditions, lower sales volumes and a lack of pricing power. According to the BER, the sustained confidence may reflect optimism about business conditions in the second quarter.

“Consumer goods wholesalers expect to profit from a pick-up in alcohol sales amid eased trading restrictions, winter clothing sales and, more importantly, the resilient agricultural sector which has benefitted from favourable weather conditions and bumper crops,” the report read.

Non-consumer goods wholesalers – such as those selling building materials, chemicals and metal ores are expected to benefit from better global growth in 2021.

Weak economic growth, low business and consumer confidence and a fragile labour market knocked the domestic motor trade industry.

New vehicle trader confidence declined from 41 points to 35 points in the first quarter. “… Sales remain depressed and well below the 12-year average reading for this indicator,” the report read.

However, new vehicle dealers expect business conditions and sales volumes to improve in the second quarter. “Much of the optimism is fuelled by the prospect of a further recovery in the domestic economy and more people returning to work, which could boost sales volumes given that interest rates remain low,” the report read.

The BER highlighted that the overall retail sector is pessimistic about business conditions and sales volumes, going into the second quarter.

Other consumer pressures such as fuel and electricity price hikes, higher food inflation coupled with below inflation adjustments to social grants and the special relief grant and the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme drawing to a close in April, will negatively impact non-durable goods sales volumes.

“The weak labour market as well as the power supply crisis at Eskom also do not bode well for the trade sector in general,” the report read.

The BER noted that pent-up demand for durable goods, have mostly been met. Second quarter performance will likely depend on semi-durable goods retailers, especially linked to sales of winter clothes and school uniforms.

 

Source: Eyewitness News

Master KG’s Jerusalema was the sound of 2020. It was the song that launched countless homemade challenge videos and even found its way into a presidential address last September.

“There can be no better way to celebrate our South Africanness than joining the global phenomenon that is spreading across the world, and that is the _Jerusalema_ dance challenge. So I urge all of you to take up this challenge.” – President Cyril Ramaphosa, 16 September 2020

Many South Africans and others across the world took up the challenge. Workplaces got involved and people marshalled their kids to join in, posting their videos on social media.

Type “Jerusalema challenge” into YouTube and the results go on for pages. The official music video has clocked over 344 million views on YouTube. Master KG bagged the Best African Act award at the MTV European Music Awards, beating Nigerian superstars Burna Boy and Rema among others.

News in the past few days that Warner International sent royalty invoices to various video posters in Germany sparked an outcry on social media – and just a little bit of panic.

The music giant charged various German government entities for using the song in their versions of the challenge. So what does that mean for us? Can anyone who filled some bored downtime during lockdown perfecting the moves and sharing their effort expect a bill for their troubles?

Eyewitness News spoke to Dumisani Motsamai, an entertainment lawyer and the man who takes care of legal and business affairs for Open Mic Productions – that’s Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode’s record label.

He said some people took the challenge on for their own gains.

“We have followed the news that Warner, our partners internationally, has actually been taken to task by many people on social media saying ‘you guys are being greedy, ‘we are doing this thing because of social [distancing], we are all down because of COVID’, and I think it’s quite on point. But there’ve been different versions of this challenge. There are situations where a child and their family are in their living room and they are doing the challenge, or they are outside and doing the challenge. That’s perfectly fine. But we have seen these challenges taking it a little bit too far, where really, what has been happening here is that people have been pushing their brands,” he said.

Companies and brands using the song to enhance their own social capital is the problem Open Mic will also be targeting, he said.

“I saw brands where you would see a drone showing a view of a company yard, then you will see their workshop, they dish out products, they make sure they give you a picture of every product they sell. The song is playing in the background, and because it is playing in the background, now I have an interest in seeing what this particular company is doing,” he said. “If it’s for private use and has nothing to do with commercialising the song, in other words, using the song in order to exploit the brand, in order to make a specific brand visible, there is totally nothing wrong with that.”

Picking out the companies and brands taking advantage of the feel-good song in between people who are using it for a bit of fun isn’t cut and dried, he said.

“There has been a thin line. Some of them will show maybe their logo at the beginning and it’s all about the dance. But some of them when you look at them, it’s all about the brand, the company that is doing the challenge and little about the challenge. Those are the ones that Warner and Open Mic has found. If the challenge is taken and someone is dancing with their family, individually, and has nothing to do with brand endorsement, has nothing to do with using the song to push a particular brand and put the brand in the face of people with the song in the background, then that’s fine.”

So what constitutes a brand or an advert? Presumably, those heart-warming videos of frontline healthcare workers at taking up the challenge won’t be targeted.

“Those are the critical examples that we will certainly not go after. You can see they were using it within the context of uplifting spirits during difficult times and within the confines of the call that was made by the president,” he said.

So if you did it for fun or to lift the nation’s spirits, you’re good. But if you used the music to shill for business, not so much. Motsamai said Open Mic was looking at local examples of brands exploiting the song and will request payment from them too, just as Warner International has done. While he didn’t have an exact number of companies they were going after, he did say there were “quite a few”.

“We will start politely [asking for fees] locally because we have seen there has been a lot of skipping of the line. We do owe it, not just to Open Mic, but to the people who were part of it. [Open Mic] owns the master, but we also have a duty to pay royalties to the people whose sound is embedded, whose performance is in the master, and in this case it is Master KG and Nomcebo,” Motsamai explained.

He also explained how royalties were due when a song was used for commercial outcomes.

“There’s royalties that, as Open Mic, we pay arising from synchronisation licences. So it is upon us to ensure that we pursue this instance and make sure that some or other kind of licensing is paid so that we can pay them as well. Yes, it’s income that comes to us as master owners, but it’s also income we have an obligation with our artists to pay over.”

It’s worth remembering that all the artists who make this music have to eat too. It’s been a very rough ride for their community as global lockdowns wiped opportunities off the board for them.

So if you took up the challenge, herded your kids into formation and posted the results online, you’re not going to get a hefty bill – or any bill – for that matter.

Image credit: Open Source Productions

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