South Africa: Today's latest news and headlines, Thursday 21 May

Stay informed and up to date with all the latest news in South Africa; don't miss the major headlines on Thursday 21 May.

As pressure mounts on government to make good on President Cyril Ramaphosa's promises of relaxed lockdown regulations "before the end of May", provincial health departments scramble to prepare medical responses and prove their readiness.


Politics and prayers: Ramaphosa on Level 3 lockdown

President Ramaphosa is expected to provide an update on the country's transition to Level 3 lockdown before the month is over. After meeting with leaders of all political parties represented in parliament and the South African Council of Churches (SACC) earlier this week, consultations between ministers in the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) are scheduled to finalise government's risk-adjusted approach.

Meanwhile, the national department of health, led by Minister Zweli Mkhize, elaborates on the various stages of dealing with the pandemic. Mkhize, who has reiterated his support for a district-based approach to ending lockdown, has noted government's intention to intensify its focus on managing hotspot areas. These areas, defined by the volume of infections and population density, include:

  1. Johannesburg (Metro)

  2. Ekurhuleni[*]Cape Town[*]eThekwini (Durban)[*]Buffalo City[*]Nelson Mandela Bay[*]Chris Hani District[*]Cape Winelands District[*]Lembe District (  KZN)

Western Cape unveils medical response

The Western Cape, which remains the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak with a caseload greater than all other provinces combined, has revealed its medical response plan. This comes amid talks of hotspot districts, like Cape Town, being forced to stay at Level 4 lockdown. The risk-adjusted regional strategy takes into account two primary variables:

  1. The caseload and rate of infection (COVID-19 curve)

  2. The region's ability to contain the spread and treat patients (medical response)

Although the growing number of infections in Cape Town puts the region at a steep disadvantage, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde argues that targeted testing strategies and a formidable medical response should warrant the city's move to Level 3 lockdown. On Wednesday, Winde, via a virtual briefing, unveiled, amongst other details, the province's acute care, critical care and palliative care preparations.

Major concerns over back to school plans

Teachers unions say that only two provincial education departments, namely the Western Cape and Gauteng, are ready to reopen schools in accordance with directives delivered by Minister Angie Motshekga.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), National Professional Teachers of SA (Naptosa), Professional Educators Union (PEU), the National Teachers Union (Natu) and the SA Teachers Union (SAOU) added that if schools had not been sanitised or supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE), teachers would be instructed to boycott the revised timetable.

COVID-19 severely impacts employment

A Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) survey has revealed that 8.1% of its respondents lost jobs or closed businesses as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The survey, titled Wave 2, studied the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment and income in South Africa. Stats SA released the findings on Wednesday. The survey was conducted between 29 April and 6 May.

According to the report, almost nine in ten (89.5%) respondents who were employed before the national lockdown remained employed during the lockdown.

"The survey also found a decrease in the proportion of respondents who usually derive their income from salaries and wages, as well as from own business during the lockdown. On the other hand, the results indicated an increase in the proportion of those who derived their incomes from savings and investments (increasing from 4.8% prior to the lockdown to 6.0% during the lockdown), loans from friends, family and/or businesses (increasing from 1.7% to 3.3%), and claims from UIF (increasing from 0.3% to 2.1%)," found the report.

The percentage of respondents who reported no income increased from 5.2% before the lockdown to 15.4% by the sixth week of the national lockdown, said Stats SA.

The survey further indicated that about a quarter of respondents (25.8%) reported that their incomes decreased during the national lockdown, while over half (56.2%) said that their income had stayed the same. (Source: SAnews)


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