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SA’s endless calm before the Covid-19 storm

By Aarti Bhana and Verashni Pillay

Hi there explain.co.za subscribers! We’ve got some exciting news today. ??

This weekly newsletter is being rebranded because… we’re thrilled to announce that talented broadcaster and all-round great guy Nickolaus Bauer is your new podcast host!

Bauer, as we like to call him, is an award-winning journalist reporting for 702 and eNCA, among others. He and Verashni worked together at the Mail & Guardian back in the day and are excited to create interesting journalism again, with the rest of the explain team.

So welcome to The Wrap: simple news summaries for busy people, brought to you by Nickolaus Bauer and explain.co.za ??‍♀

It’s a strange time across the world as people of Christian and Jewish faith celebrate one of their most significant holy days – Easter and Passover – in isolation. In South Africa, our lockdown has just been extended to the end of April. What’s in store for our country and what’s been happening? Read on to find out.

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EMOJI NEWS INDICATOR

  1. Covid-19: The updates you need to know ?
  2. Fake news in the time of the Coronavirus ?
  3. The most important global news summarised ?

And your weekly dose of inspiration ?

So, let’s dive in:

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? _For our NEW improved podcast version of this update, go here

? For text, keep scrolling

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. COVID-19: THE UPDATES YOU NEED TO KNOW ?

Latest numbers: 12 April 2020

? 75 053 tests conducted
? 2 028 confirmed positive
? 410 recoveries
? 25 deaths

▪️ Two extra weeks in lockdown

We suggest you cancel any plans after April 16 since, as you now know, SA’s lockdown has been extended till the end of April. The President made the announcement on Thursday. It was surprising for some, expected by most and a cause for huge concern for others.

Adding two more weeks to the 21 day lockdown will help to contain the virus, most agree. The President said that the effects of the lockdown are already showing, citing a dramatic drop in our infection growth rate. As we noted last time, SA’s numbers are much lower than expected. But authorities have cautioned that it’s still too early to tell. Government’s biggest concern is ending the lockdown prematurely only to see an explosion in cases as has happened in the rest of the world. As another world leader said this week, it’s like walking a tightrope – between saving lives and saving the economy. More on this later.

▪️ Why are SA’s numbers still so low?

No one is really sure. Everyone keeps talking about the calm before the storm – but when will the storm actually hit? You may be tempted to think our reported numbers are not to be trusted – after all our testing (while ramping up) could be better. However, the BBC noted this week that if the virus was brewing undetected in rural and township areas, hospitals and clinics would see an increase in admissions for respiratory problems. This hasn’t happened. One theory is that a vaccine that most South Africans get early in life for respiratory conditions may be slowing things down, but we just don’t know. The country is still expecting a wave of cases, with SA’s peak projected to hit in June, only! ? Meanwhile government needs to increase the supply of hospital beds and protective equipment – which are short of what we willneed according to projections.

▪️ What’s going to happen to the economy?

Economists fear that South Africa’s economy may not be able to withstand two more weeks of lockdown. Some, like Thabi Leoka, says the extended lockdown will push us into a ‘deep recession’ and Mike Schussler says the extension could push the unemployment level past 50%. Compared with other countries like the US and UK, we have less resources and money. That’s just the reality. Even with their slower response to the virus, they have the money to cushion the blow of the impact. In South Africa, some small businesses are closing their doors permanently and even bigger businesses struggling. The government knows we are in a difficult situation, so it needs to come up with a plan. The Sunday Times is reporting that the National Command Council will hold a meeting this week to work out a strategy to kick-start the economy after lockdown, while also discussing proposals from industries to ease certain restrictions during the lockdown. The tobacco and alcohol industries are standing first in line. There is also hope that repurposing certain industries will create jobs and retain some old ones – for example car manufacturers could start producing ventilators. Proposals to support and restructure the informal sector is also on the table. But SA is not alone. Billionaire businessman Johann Rupert, who saw the 2008 financial crisis coming, says this will be a complete RESET for the whole economic system – globally.

As an aside though, here is something we should be proud of: the President announced that he and all members of the executive will donate a third of their salaries to the Solidarity Fund for three months. EFF legislators in parliament (MPs) and local councils will do the same, the party announced afterwards. The DA’s stance is not yet clear but all MPs are set to discuss the matter. The fund has already raised over R2 billion.

▪️ Masks are necessary to protect yourselves

Initially, we were told that we don’t need masks to protect ourselves against the virus, and that only health workers or those caring for sick people should use it. But new research shows that using a mask lowers the risk of transmission of the virus. South Africa, like the rest of the world, is running short of protective gear and other equipment, so Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is calling on people to instead use triple-layered cloth masks in public. He added that it’s something we can make ourselves. Just google it – there are a number of different methods.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE COVID-19 FAKE NEWS DIARIES ?

History will remember Covid-19 as a turning point for world history… and some parts of history will also remember it for an explosion fake news and conspiracy theories ?. Seriously, it’s been WILD out there. Don’t believe everything you’re forwarded on WhatsApp. Here’s a taste of the fake news circulating

▪️ Bill Gates created a vaccine to test in Africa

Bill Gates did not create a vaccine for Covid-19, neither did he say any vaccine should be tested in Africa. The fake news spread like wildfire on Twitter creating massive anti-Gates sentiment. People were angry at the thought of using Africa as a testing ground. Even News24, SA’s biggest website, ran a story with a misleading headline about it, but then retracted and apologised. But experts fear the damage has been done, with anti-vaccine sentiments stoked.

▪️ 5G internet is going to kill us faster

This conspiracy theory started in the UK as early as January and gained steam in April. It has people believing that 5G internet connection will accelerate the spread of the virus. ??‍♀️ People in the UK went as far as burning 5G masts out of fear and paranoia but no evidence shows that these towers can kill us.

▪️ Test kits are contaminated

Please don’t believe the guy with the earbud stuck up his nostril. He put out a video telling people to refuse the door-to-door testing because the test kits are contaminated and that’s how the virus spreads. ??‍♀️ His video went viral and he promptly got arrested for spreading fake news. He’ll be in court on Tuesday.

For our full fake news FAQs, go here

Besides this there was also some weird stuff happening in South Africa this past week.

Ministers making headlines

? Did you catch the news of Digital and Communications Minister Stella-Ndabeni Abrahams breaking lockdown rules? A whole minister, guys. She was pictured having lunch with former ANC MP Mduduzi Manana in a now deleted Instagram post. Infuriated South Africans, stuck in their own homes, called for accountability. Manana claimed Abrahams was passing to pick up equipment, but the President was ‘UNMOVED’ – his words! He placed Abrahmas on two months special leave, a month of which will be unpaid. Suspending a minister has never happened before in SA’s democratic history.

? Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula also took the spotlight this week. He laid charges against media personality and Idols SA judge Somizi Mhlongo for spreading misinformation and contravening lockdown regulations. The story: On Thursday, Mhlongo said on live radio that Mbalula told him that the lockdown will be extended. Mbalula, hearing this, decided to press charges against Mhlongo and distanced himself from the claims. Mhlongo admitted that it was only a joke to scare his colleague and that he was not in contact with Mbalula, at all. He issued a public apology and Mbalula accepted it. The end… but wow, the drama went on for a WHILE on social media. ?

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD ?

▪️ United States

The United States has the HIGHEST number of Covid-19 cases in the world. As of today, it has over 533 000 cases and over 20 000 deaths. That’s a thousand more deaths than Italy. New York, the worst-hit state, is ramping up mass graves. The images are chilling.

While US President Donald Trump expressed anti-Chinese sentiment around the virus, research shows that the country’s largest coronavirus outbreak, in New York, was largely due to US citizens bringing the infection back from Europe. Trump imposed restrictions on travellers from China at the end of January but only blocked travel from most European countries in mid-March. By then, many New Yorkers were already infected.

▪️ Spain lifts some restrictions

Despite having the second-highest number of cases, Spanish authorities have decided to lift some restrictions for non-essential workers after seeing a slight drop in the number of cases and deaths. Some businesses in Spain will open on Monday. But it’s causing concern as numbers may spike again, even though Spain reached its peak in early April. Spain has over 166 000 cases and over 16 000 deaths.

▪️ South Korea is an example to us all

South Korea’s widespread testing is a good example to us all. A case study shows that thanks to its ‘well-funded’ and efficient universal healthcare system, South Korea was able to successfully flatten its curve without having to resort to a lockdown. Interesting fact: South Korea’s health system is a mix of private and public: hospitals are mostly privately run, and 97% of the Korean population is covered by the government’s compulsory national health insurance scheme. Plus, the country has a citizenry with a history of demanding only the best from their leaders – or calling for their removal. The world is praising the nation for its efforts, with special features in The Economist, among other publications.

▪️ China offers tax breaks for animal exports

Remember how the pandemic is thought to have emanated from China’s animal markets, where it jumped to humans from a bat or even pangolin meat? Chinese authorities have now shut down domestic wild animal traders over fears their goods sparked the mess the whole world is in. BUT that doesn’t mean it’s done – the Wall Street journal reports the Chinese government are offering tax breaks to the multibillion-dollar animal-products industry to SHIP SOME OF THE CREATURES OVERSEAS ?

INSPIRATION ?

In the midst of the craziness there’s some interesting innovation going on. You may have seen the hilarious videos of Italian mayors shouting at their citizens to stay off the streets. A district in Limpopo has gone one level up – using drones. Lockdown offenders in Limpopo now have the booming voice of district mayor Maripe Mangena tailing them down the street via drones, the Sunday Times reported this week. But that’s not all, folks. The drones feed footage into an AI (artificial intelligence) app that can record people and even count them. Officials monitor the results and redirect policing efforts where they’re needed. They did this during the first trial run to great effect by figuring out people were flocking to an illegal shebeen – and sending cops to shut it down. The system, which used volunteer drone pilots, is not that expensive so could be replicated across the country. The future is here and it’s slightly terrifying.

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As we enter the third week of lockdown, we can continue to anticipate an increase in the number of cases and deaths.

The National Command Council will be meeting on Monday to discuss measures to save the economy and avoid a jobs bloodbath.

The guy who pulled a fake news stunt with an earbud up his nose will most likely hear his fate in court on Tuesday.

That’s it from us at the newly-named: The Wrap, a product of https://www.explain.co.za/ – simple news summaries for busy people. ??‍♀

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Till next time, goodbye ✌?