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Covid, the sequel, hits SA shores

Hi there 🙋🏽‍♀️ It’s summer time, and everyone has that Dezemba buzz. Our GDP is no exception, and she just got her bikini line waxed. The downside, of course, is that we’re now in the thick of a Covid-19 second surge, and we’re worried that there might be new restrictions imposed. Yet, as always, hope springs eternal across South Africa even in these difficult times. Our country’s top scientists are getting top recognition, and we’re pumped (haha) about a new petrol app. 😉 We also bring you the latest political news in our Accountability Monitor and, spoiler alert: we know the plotline to The Crown season 20. Enjoy this week’s Wrap, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team 😄.

CONTENT

  1. THE BIG STORY: It’s up to us now
  2. OUR TAKE: The kids are not alright
  3. BRIEFS: Three SA doctors hailed, GDP rebounds and the Queen becomes an influencer
  4. Accountability Monitor: Zuma’s become a pro at dodgeball and Ace won’t step aside, probably

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. THE BIG STORY: IT’S UP TO US NOW 😓

It’s official: SA is in the midst of a Covid-19 second wave.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize made the announcement on Wednesday night, after a number of super-spreader events caused an exponential growth in cases.

SA recorded over 6000 new cases on Wednesday – a number not seen since August. Mkhize said the majority of new cases were from the Western Cape (30%), Eastern Cape (24%), KwaZulu Natal (23%) and Gauteng (17%).

The rise in cases in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal is “exponential”, he said.

But this wave is a little different from the first one: the peak age of those infected is between 15 and 19. Mkhize said this is because of a “large number of parties” where young people are drinking booze, not wearing masks or practising social distancing. This has led to super-spreader events, Mkhize said. Because most of these cases are asymptomatic, and young people tend to move around a lot, you can expect infections stemming from them to spread pretty quickly.

We don’t know whether the country will face new restrictions now – but judging from Mkhize’s statement, if it were up to him, parties and large gatherings would be severely limited this December.

We’re waiting on news from President Cyril Ramaphosa about the next steps. It’s worth noting that many people who previously wanted the government to stop imposing harsh restrictions are now calling for it to impose those same restrictions. It may be too late to prevent a second wave now, but it’s up to us to make sure it claims as few lives as possible. 🙅🏽‍♀️

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. OUR TAKE: THE KIDS ARE NOT ALRIGHT 😞

Teenagers are at the heart of the fact that SA is now in a second wave. First, there was the scare in Cape Town when a bunch of young people went clubbing at Tin Roof. Many became ill and had to be quarantined. But that was not the wake-up call that it should have been.

Now, the matric Rage event in Ballito has been declared a super-spreader event. 😓

Central to the problem are these matric “Rage” parties – when matrics flock to seaside towns to celebrate the end of their high school careers. Parties like these are the biggest reason for the exponential growth in cases in parts of the country, the department of health said this week. Most of those who are carrying and spreading the illness are between the ages of 15 and 19. They’re mostly asymptomatic, and are spreading the virus unknowingly.

Gauteng authorities are in the process of tracking and tracing about 1300 matrics who attended the Ballito event.
Rage organisers told the Daily Maverick that Covid-19 restrictions were in place, including a ban on booze at parties. Many matrics then opted to party elsewhere, where no restrictions were imposed.

From the start of the pandemic, the concern has understandably been for the elderly – who are most at risk of developing severe Covid-19. Younger people have had milder forms of the illness and have been considered lower risk, so they’ve flown under the radar. Until now. 😏

A sense of social solidarity appears to be missing from many young people. In a country as unequal as ours, it is disheartening that a sense of community has not seeped into the consciousness of our youth – especially during such a critical time.

But young people are not the only ones at fault here. Their ability to foresee the consequences of their actions, biologically, isn’t fully developed. Teenagers are, by nature, risk-taking creatures. That’s normal. That is why they have parents to help them make good decisions.

Let’s do a better job of educating ourselves, and our youngsters: no one is immune.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS: ✍🏽

▪️ Bill Gates commends three SA doctors

SA certainly is home to some amazing people – and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates knows it. On his blog this week Gates, whose foundation with his wife Melinda has poured millions into medical research globally, singled out Professors Salim Abdool Karim and Quarraisha Karim for their work in the fight against HIV/Aids. The husband/wife team are both experts in infectious diseases, and Salim chairs the group of scientists advising the government on Covid. Both have been at the forefront of SA’s fight against HIV/Aids for years. Gates hailed their “upbeat” attitude and said their work in the HIV field had helped prepare the country better for Covid-19, according to TimesLive. He also singled out Dr Kopano Matlwa Mabaso for her “sophisticated effort” in combating childhood stunting from malnutrition. She also happens to be the acclaimed author of Coconut, among other books. It must be the African sunshine that keeps us shining ☀️.

▪️ Uber eats… for your car?

You can now order petrol from an app on your phone, straight to your car. It’s not really run by Uber, of course, but Business Insider reports that the app, called Refuel, brings petrol or diesel to your car at the same price you’d pay at a petrol station. It’s already available on the Apple and Play stores. It’s currently only available at corporate venues like office parks, but residential users will soon be able to access it too. It sounds uber convenient, and that’s the last time you’ll have to panic when the “empty tank” light pops up in your car. 🚗

▪️ Wage increases for domestic workers?

Domestic workers and farm workers could earn minimum wage by 2022 if new regulations are agreed to, GroundUp reports. And yes, that means that right now, domestic workers and farm workers don’t have to be paid minimum wage. But most commissioners at the National Minimum Wage Commission want that to change. They’ve also recommended that the national minimum wage be increased from R20.76 to R21.68 an hour because of the devastating effect that Covid-19 has had on the poorest households. Look, that’s really the BARE minimum. As the commissioners pointed out, the current minimum wage is still below the poverty line. (In SA, you’re considered impoverished if your household of four earns below R3360 a month.) They also said that initial research showed the increase would not place an extra burden on employers.

Domestic workers are entitled to about R15.60 an hour currently. You do the maths, but if you’re paying yours anything under R125 a day, you’re breaking the law. 😶

▪️ GDP gets it glad rags on

After a depressing winter hiding inside and binging on carbs, our GDP has bounced back, with its beach body all ready for summer. If you remember April to June this year, it’s probably because you didn’t go out at all. This made for one of the most dire quarters for economic activity. Looks like ya’ll made up for it big time in the following quarter: July – August. Latest data shows our gross domestic product – the amount of goods and services produced by the country – for that period grew by 13.5% compared to the previous quarter. This was way better than the experts were hoping for. But we’ve still got a long way to go. 😓 The increase in GDP still doesn’t take us to pre-lockdown levels. But it is good news anyway, and even more motivation for us all to do Dezemba responsibly so that more economy-crushing restrictions don’t have to be imposed. Our GDP has just had her bikini line waxed guys. Don’t let her down. 😉

▪️ Gee-Six-Five dies as a star and an inspiration to many

If there is one thing we’ve all learned this year, it’s that 2020 giveth and 2020 taketh away. One of the most unexpected losses has been Nkosingiphile Olpha Selepe, known by her stage name, Gee-Six-Five. Selepe became a viral sensation with her unorthodox Amapiano hit “Obani Lababantu,” in November 2020. Her niece, Sbu Mpungose, confirmed her death on Twitter on 9 December 2020. She died two days after testing positive for Covid-19.

Nkosingiphile inspired many to never give up on their dreams after releasing her single at the age of 65. She said in an interview, “I am asking, ‘who are these people?’ What I’m saying is don’t hold back on your dreams because of people.” ✨ The PhD candidate and former teacher previously released gospel albums and children’s nursery rhymes in isiZulu, but none were as successful as her amaPiano hit.

▪️ Another day, another missed Brexit deadline

Another Brexit deadline missed? Yes, alas. The UK and EU now have three weeks to figure out how they’re going to keep trading with each other. On Wednesday, leaders from both parties met for a three-hour dinner to hash it out… and still made a hash of it. As European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen hilariously put it: despite “a lively and interesting discussion” the two sides’ positions “remain far apart”. Well isn’t that lovely? What were they doing? Having endless cups of tea? 😶 We’re sure British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a leader in the nationalist right-wing vein, is a riveting dinner companion. But millions of livelihoods and key industries are hanging in the balance.

👉🏽 Quick explainer: The UK made the momentous decision to leave the EU in 2016 – the first and only country to do so in the powerful bloc’s 63-year history. Brexit already happened in January, but that was just politically. They’ve since had an 11-month transition period to work out the all-important trade agreement, or the UK exits the EU with a disastrous “no deal” at the end of the year.

▪️ The Crown season 20: Queen Elizabeth, the influencer

We love this story via Quartz. UK royals-in-chief, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, may become Covid-19 “vaccine influencers”. ​Unnamed sources told the press that the royal couple may “let it be known” when they’ve received a Covid-19 vaccine, a move that could combat anti-vaxxing sentiment and disinformation in the UK and beyond.

Speaking of vaccines, the UK has started its roll-out and Canada will soon too. While you may have heard that South Africa “lagged” in making a payment to be included in a global vaccine roll-out initiative called Covax, we explained this week that it appears to be a little more complicated than that. Read our explainer on explain.co.za.

The real question is whether vaccines will be equitably rolled out to all, and with wealthier countries buying up doses by the millions, this isn’t guaranteed. But President Cyril Ramaphosa promised this week that SA would have access to vaccines for at least 10% of the population by mid-2021, so there is hope. 🙏🏽

▪️ Doom for Zoom after the boom

How many Zoom meetings have you had this year? Yeah, we’ve lost track, too.👩🏽‍💻 Last year, Zoom had on average 10 million daily meeting participants. It now has 350 million. The “unicorn” tech start-up, so called for its $1 billion valuation in 2017, has seen its revenue quadruple since 2019. Buuuut….now this unicorn may lose its horn. Its share price took another knock, after news about Covid vaccines and the prospect of a return to office normality.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 4. ACCOUNTABILITY MONITOR

🔸 Zuma’s corruption case postponed again

“Former President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial postponed, again – a South African proverb.”😆

That’s right, the former president’s arms deal trial will now only go ahead in February 2021, a court decided this week. This was due to technical reasons. Zuma is facing allegations that he took a bribe from French arms company Thales during the 1999 arms deal. Zuma’s been fighting off these charges in the courts for over a decade. But don’t worry: he’s got plenty of other legal battles to fight while he waits for February to roll around.

🔸 Rogue unit put to bed at last

It’s ruined politicians, journalists, honest civil servants and even threatened entire institutions like Sars. But now we can finally say: good night, rogue unit narrative. Yet another judge delivered an epic put-down of one of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s reports this week. And with that, the rumour that a “rogue unit” at our tax collecting authority spied on politicians was finally put to bed. Turns out Mkhwebane’s finding, that the unit existed and that a number of politicians should lose their heads over it, was all balderdash. Curiously, all of those politicians happened to be enemies of Zuma. Who’da thunkit?

PS: If you want a detailed explainer on what the whole saga was about, read this great take in the Financial Mail, by an insider.

🔸 Ace to go to integrity commission

In this week’s episode of “How to get away with corruption”, the ANC has decided that its secretary-general, Ace Magashule, should not step down over allegations of corruption after all. Kind of. If you solve for x, carry the two over and find the square root of the number of ANC members in Luthuli House… 🤯 You virtually need a degree in advanced calculus to understand exactly what the party intends to do about corruption. See, the ANC previously said Magashule and others charged with corruption should step down from their positions. Then Magashule became one of the charged persons, and that decision apparently went up in smoke. Several legal opinions later, the party has now concluded that Magashule must appear before its integrity commission, a small committee of party elders who are supposed to deal with internal problems in the party. Or, as some like to call it, the place where complaints go to die. Critics say the commission rarely holds cadres to account, and Magashule will be counting on this when he appears on 12 December. On the other hand, it shows that the party is exhausting its internal processes, which is important where employment disputes are concerned. And following processes to the T is one of Ramaphosa’s strengths. Time will tell.

That’s it from us at The Wrap, a product of explain.co.za – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾‍♀

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Till next time, goodbye from Sarah, Verashni, Aarti, Nontshi and Tash ✌🏽

3 thoughts on “Covid, the sequel, hits SA shores”

  1. Pingback: THE BIG STORY: It’s up to us now – explain

  2. Pingback: OUR TAKE: The kids are not alright – explain

  3. Pingback: BRIEF: Bill Gates commends three SA doctors – explain

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