Lockdown eases to Level 4 as South Africa records 297 more confirmed COVID-19 cases, taking the total number to 5,647, the Education Department has a proposal for the reopening of schools and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni says the country is facing a grim economic future.
DAY 34 OF LEVEL 5 LOCKDOWN (THE LAST DAY AT THIS LEVEL)
BY THE NUMBERS
• 5,647 confirmed infections since the virus first arrived in SA – 297 cases being recorded in the last 24 hours.
• 10,403 tests completed in the last 24 hours.
• Globally, more than 3,250,000 people have tested positive since the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan, 231,000 have died and the number listed as recovered has passed the million mark.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AT LEVEL 4 THAT YOU CAN’T DO AT LEVEL 5?
• Exercise – but only between 6am and 9am and only within a 5km radius of your home.
• Buy computers, electronic equipment (the things you need to work from home).
• Buy winter clothes, blankets, heaters and the like.
• Some sectors can start going back to work – but in a very gradually phased way.
• You’ll be able to get your car fixed – emergency repairs.
• You’ll be able to get hot meals delivered to you by any restaurants that have chosen to open (only delivery, no take out or sit-in).
• You’ll have to wear a cloth mask whenever you go out (or use a scarf or T-shirt to cover your nose and mouth).
• You’ll have to be home for the curfew between 8pm and 5am.
• Basic Education – what was a draft plan, is now a proposal, with an amended potential return date for grades 12 and 7, of 1 June.
• Well, that’s for kids who have schools to go back to – nationwide more than 962 schools have been burgled or vandalised during the lockdown.
• The return to school will only happen if certain stringent conditions are met – and to this end, the Education Department’s office staff will return to work on Monday, the idea is that teachers will follow on the 18th, and if all goes well, the first wave of kids will head back to school on 1 June.
• They will start working on getting PPEs delivered to all the nation’s schools.
• Schools will also have to be deep cleaned.
• Minister of Basic Education Angie MOtshekga indicated that during the course of the coming month, they will brief the Command Council on progress and assess when schools can start again.
• One way or another, the Education Department remains committed to saving the academic year. As per the plan, matric prelims and finals will be rolled into one and moved a little later in the year to November/December.
• The lockdown put the brakes on preparations for rewrites (for candidates from last year), and they too will write in November/December, meaning more than a million candidates will be writing countrywide.
• As for tertiary/post-school education, they’ve decided the risk of returning to normal campus life is just too high, so universities and TVET colleges (both public and private) will not return to campus life during Level 4.
• the exception here is final year Clinical Training Medical students, who will return to help in the fight against COVID-19 – but this return will be controlled and managed under strict conditions.
• They’re close to reaching a deal with mobile service providers to secure a deal to ensure data and connectivity to support remote learning.
• Where digital delivery isn’t possible, they’ll organise physical delivery of learning materials.
• All campuses will be deep cleaned and have biosafety protocols implemented (they’ll preference SMMEs to do that work).
• NSFAS funding will continue for the whole academic year, and because the year is likely to be extended, additional funding is likely to be needed.
• Academic year will be re-organised – learning could extend into early 2021 depending on the curve.
• Treasury briefed Parliament’s Finance Portfolio Committee, laying out, amongst other things, it’s three case scenarios for the economy. Even the best-case scenario is pretty bleak – if the virus can be contained quickly, and the lockdown eased, just under 3 million people will lose their jobs.
• Worst case scenario, more than 7 million people could lose their jobs, and unemployment could hit 50%.
• Finance Minister Tito Mboweni says revenue is likely to decrease by 32% or more.
• So it’s kind of a pity that we’ve lost out on more than R1.5 billion in “sin taxes” because of the ban on cigarettes and alcohol under the lockdown – and that’s just in 5 weeks. It’s important to note that this is money the fiscus will never get back because even when the lockdown is relaxed, people won’t smoke double, or drink double (well, for very long at least…).
• Mboweni – in his characteristic style – acknowledged he wasn’t altogether happy with the ban on cigarette and alcohol sales – saying he lost the battle in Cabinet, and now has to toe the line.
COURT RULING ON MOSQUES
• The Gauteng High Court dismissed an application by a group of Muslim leaders that would have allowed them to hold prayers under strict conditions.
• They asked the court to declare parts of the lockdown regulations unconstitutional, because of the ban on gathering in a place for religious services (and for any other reason, for that matter).
THE WESTERN CAPE – THE EPICENTRE
• The CTICC will be kitted out as a hospital, with 867 beds, all of which will have access to oxygen.
• Another two facilities set to be opened by the end of June – they are still deciding where exactly to locate those.
• There’s a new live dashboard here https://coronavirus.westerncape.gov.za/ that will be updated once a day, and within the next 10 days, it will allow for a very granular tracking of cases, to the extent that you’ll be able to zoom into your neighbourhood and see what the numbers look like.
• 35,867 tests done in the Western Cape – averaging more than 2,000 tests every day. Next week that number will rise higher.
• 2,371 confirmed cases in total, 657 of those patients are listed as recovered. 96 people currently in hospital, 31 people in ICU.
• The Western Cape has a very targeted strategy in terms of screening, where they fan out from a positive case and try to trace all possible contacts.
• There is a question that we have been trying to get an answer to for some time now: how is it, that there are so many clusters in the Western Cape, that can be traced back to supermarkets mostly, and that a similar phenomenon is not occurring in Gauteng or any other major centre. Given that lockdown compliance is fairly constant and that we know the virus moves rapidly and is transmitted where people gather, how is it possible that the same phenomenon isn’t playing out elsewhere in the country? We’ll keep asking the question.
• Another big concern is the way higher death rates in the Western Cape – if you compare it (proportionately) to Gauteng, it is very high. Provincial head of health, Kieth Cloete, was questioned about this by the Health Minister and his team is preparing a full report on all the people who have passed in this province to review the care they received. However, there’s an important aspect to bear in mind – that a lot of the patients who died had been admitted to hospital without knowing they had the virus – most had serious underlying condition, and it was only when they got to hospital that they were tested – in some cases they were only tested after they died.
• UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Britain is past the peak of its coronavirus outbreak and promised to set out a plan next week on how the lockdown will be relaxed.
• Donald Trump remains confident the coronavirus may have originated in a Chinese virology lab but he declined to describe the evidence on which he bases this belief.
• Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has coronavirus and is temporarily stepping down to recover.
• Chile is planning to reopen some national parks next week after weeks of coronavirus lockdowns.
• And Portugal is planning a sector-by-sector plan to gradually lift lockdown measures