Tag: Lockdown

The Consequences of Mini Lockdowns

With mini, or ‘snap’ lockdowns now almost certain for areas of South Africa where Covid-19 infections have seen a sudden spike, economists at the University of Stellenbosch’s Bureau for Economic Research (BER) say this will be bad news for economic recovery in the country.

The BER said that the whole of South Africa is seeing a steady rise in new coronavirus cases, with the seven-day rolling average now at about 2,900 daily cases, from 1,500 cases at the start of November.

This is still off from the 12,000-plus daily cases seen at the peak of the virus in June and July, but is showing a definite trend upwards.

The fresh surge is largely due to the spike in cases experienced in the Eastern and Western Cape, the BER said, with authorities officially characterising it as a resurgence.

“The Western Cape government said that the province is now officially experiencing a resurgence of the virus as active cases jumped by more than 20%, week-on-week. In fact, new cases rose by more than 52% over the past week in the Western Cape with community transmission again established. The province issued a hotspot alert for the Garden Route as well as the City of Cape Town. George and Knysna recorded more new cases than during the peak of the nationwide pandemic in July. Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize also expressed concern about the number of positive cases as well as rising hospital admissions and deaths from the virus in the Eastern Cape,” the BER said.

While the Western Cape government has made it clear that South Africa cannot afford another nationwide lockdown, it, along with the Eastern Cape, have seriously considered implementing tighter restrictions in hotspot areas – a type of mini lockdown, or snap lockdown, similar to those seen across European cities.  Reports suggest that these lockdowns will probably be level 3 restrictions.

“While in theory, local, or snap lockdowns could be a sensible approach to ensure that a region’s health system can cope with a sudden rise in cases, it will be challenging to implement this in practice – especially ahead of the festive season,” it said. “Furthermore, local lockdowns will be a setback to the economic recovery in those regions.”

Level 3 focused mainly on restrictions on alcohol, leisure travel, social visits and large gatherings.  It will also mean that those who can effectively work from home will be required to do so.  People will be prohibited from leaving their homes except for travel to and from work and for essential shopping and emergencies.  Hotels and accommodation will be closed.

These restrictions will end the upward trend observed in the economy.  South Africa can ill afford further economic decline with several state owned companies barely staying afloat.  “The improvement in business confidence was supported by a broad-based recovery in all sectors included in the index. However, the consumer-linked sectors performed much better than manufacturing and in particular building.

“While this does raise some questions about the sustainability of the improvement, the fact that some growth momentum seems to have been sustained from Q3 to Q4 was heartening,” it said.

Western Cape possible lockdown

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde will meet with Cabinet on Friday to discuss measures to limit the movement of people as the number of COVID-19 cases increase in the Western Cape.  The Western Cape is officially dealing with a resurgence of COVID-19.

The province’s Health Department said that infections had been rising steadily since October and Cape Town had seen more than 2,000 infections in the last seven days.  With the number of COVID-19 infections increasing yet again, there are questions as to whether Premier Winde will consider a ‘mini or district’ lockdown or closing the borders.

Winde said that he would meet with Cabinet to discuss what practical solutions could be implemented, specifically where numbers were high.

“Right now, there is no mechanism to close down a border but that is what we will talk about on Friday – what are the tools on creating a sort of mini lockdown or a closing of down of a region to slow it [the virus] down.”

He said that government would also increase law enforcement visibility to ensure that COVID-19 regulations were adhered to.

“We will definitely be looking at how do we ramp this up in places where people are not adhering to the rules, where we’re seeing that congestion and no real management.”

The Western Cape Government is concerned about a growing number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations.  That’s when there’s an increase of more than 20% on a weekly basis.  Provincial Head of Health Doctor Keith Cloete said that over the last week, there was a 52% jump in new COVID-19 cases.

He said that there was now established community transmission once again, which meant that it was spreading at a faster rate.  Cloete said that the growth was being driven in the Garden Route and the Cape Metro.

“It’s basically everywhere in the metro, the increases are there, so therefore we have established that the resurgence in the metro is the biggest population and its the biggest risk for the whole province in terms of numbers of people.”

He said that this week, both George and Knysna recorded the highest ever number of new COVID-19 cases, exceeding the peak of the first wave.

“The Mossel Bay team – 57 new patients, the active cases there are 392; the George area – 119 new patients with big numbers. Our biggest strain is in George, especially the George Hospital.”

Cloete added that there had also been a rapid increase in hospitalisations and mortality rates were starting to rise.

Christmas Lockdown? What will government decide

The Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said he was extremely concerned that the latest daily number of COVID-19 infections shot up to nearly 3,000 with pockets of cluster outbreaks across the country.  Total cases in South Africa have reached 757,000 now, with the Eastern Cape and Western Cape showing a spike in the number of daily infections.  Mkhize however added that health officials are confident that they could still contain the cluster outbreaks in parts of the Eastern Cape, and specifically the Nelson Mandela Bay area. 

“I am very concerned and I think it’s important that all South Africans be very concerned. The real issue is that the numbers should be going down and stabilising or staying steady at a lower level. And therefore, something that we did right at the beginning will probably be people taking the message seriously. At this time, it looks like complacency is coming,” Mkhize said.

Another concern for the Health Minister is the so-called super spreader events. “We are concerned by what we’ve seen as super spreader events. In the case of the Western Cape, we have identified a number of incidents. There have been parties, particularly involving students with no masks and with the use of alcohol. Those tend to explode.”

Mkhize said that the government was extremely worried about the spike in daily coronavirus infections but that no decision had yet been taken on whether to impose restrictions during the festive season. Only 5 weeks remain before Christmas and concerns are that there is a potential for a second wave of infections as people go on Holiday.

“If we are not able to contain the spread by then, you will notice that the whole area will have spread and will therefore start having us look at tighter measures. We’ve not at this point decided there’s going to be stricter lockdown measures during Christmas but it is a matter of concern. There’s be a lot of movement of people, they’re not doing any work, so they’re mingling and enjoying the festive season.”

These skills could guarantee you a Job

Despite South Africa’s alarming unemployment data, the latest CareerJunction Index serves to remind job seekers that there is still a considerable demand for skilled workers in the country.

The CareerJunction Index (CJI) represents online labour dynamics by providing a detailed analysis of the relative ratio of supply and demand in the job market. In October the CJI was marginally higher than September but still placed under the job market balance of 100.  If the index score is below 100 points, it indicates that there are more employment seekers than available positions.  This makes for a highly competitive environment with several skilled workers vying for the same job.

“While job search activity increased by 15% compared to September, recruitment activity increased by 9%. Trending jobs in South Africa include client/customer support, business development and admin clerk,” said CareerJunction.  Top employment sectors at this stage are business and management, sales, ICT, marketing, cleaning, maintenance and repairs, and architecture and engineering.   Throughout the lockdown, the most in-demand job skills was software development skills, management skills, and sales consultants.

The IT sector has been experiencing continuous growth in recruitment activity over the last three months. Software development skills remain the most sought-after of the IT skills, according to CareerJunction.  Managerial skills are also in high demand, particularly for candidates with experience and skills in finance. The last four months also saw an increase in demand for sales staff.


Trending jobs currently include:

Client / Customer Support

Average salary offerings for a skilled level position:

  • GP R16,013 to R20,845
  • WC R16,701 to R20,827
  • KZN R15,040 to R19,317

Business Development

Average salary offerings for a skilled level position:

  • GP R25,155 to R32,369
  • WC R19,478 to R23,250
  • KZN R18,143 to R23,048

Administration Clerk

Average salary offerings for a skilled level position:

  • GP R12,698 to R15,985
  • WC R11,425 to R14,123
  • KZN R8,995 to R11,200

Supply and demand

The IT, business & management and finance sectors are without doubt the most sought after sectors, followed by the sales, admin, office & support and architecture & engineering sectors.  Even though these skills are in high demand, the supply of skilled workers are still considerably higher than positions available.

It is also interesting to note the decline in the demand for health workers due mostly to the fewer coronavirus cases.


Unemployment crisis

The loss of an alarming 2.2-million jobs pushed the unemployment rate to 43.1%.  Government has taken steps to temporarily alleviate some of the pressure by launching initiatives to place 800,000 South Africans in jobs in a short period of time.  In April president Ramaphosa announced that R100 billion would be allocated for employment protection and creation.  The Presidential Employment Stimulus will aim to create and sustain 800,000 jobs with R12.6 billion committed in the current financial year and an additional investment of R100 billion over the next three years.

One of the initiatives created by government is the digital platform for recruitment and candidate matching  www.sayouth.mobi.  The Department of Basic Education is already using this platform to place 300,00 w

 

Covid Christmas for South Africa

With cluster outbreaks of COVID-19 in some parts of the country, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has warned that South Africans will have to start preparing for a different kind of Christmas, a Covid-19 Christmas. Mkhize noticed COVID-19 fatigue, with people not wearing their masks anymore, failing to adhere to social distance protocol and becoming lax when it comes to washing hands.

According to Mkhize cluster outbreaks does not necessarily mean the entire country would experience an immediate resurgence and that they were monitoring these developments closely.

“The day-to-day festivities have to be done differently and it is very important for us to start gearing ourselves for a slightly different Christmas. I’m not talking about the lockdown, I’m talking about just changing the way we enjoy and then end up with an infection.”

 

Mkhize and his team will be in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro on Tuesday where experts have noticed a massive spike in cases. “The Nelson Mandela Bay area is causing a lot of challenges we need to control the area and see if it can be contained, otherwise it will start flaring up in other parts of the country.”

Restaurant Industry not out of the Dark yet

Though alcohol sales have returned to normal again, the Restaurant Association of South Africa said that owners were still trying to keep their business afloat.  During his address to the nation earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that trading hours for alcohol sales would return to normal, which includes weekends.

The association noted this move with appreciation but said that at this stage, the industry was facing a number of challenges as it had been hit hard financially over the past few months of the lockdown.  Wendy Alberts of the restaurant association  said that owners were currently trying to keep staff employed and were having challenges with the UIF Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme, as restaurants were not able to pay full salaries while staff were on short time.

“We are appealing to landlords to revise the leases. While they perceive the industry to be busy, the industry is still under a huge depression.” Alberts said that government needed to sit down with the industry and look at mechanisms to find a recovery plan. She continued saying that the sector was in desperate need of funding and that government had ignored the industry, leaving them to find ways to survive on their own.

“We are looking for funding in order to sustain ourselves. We’ve got to be talking to the landlords, we’ve got to be talking to the bank, UIF… we still haven’t had TERS payment for the foreigners, it’s a massive challenge.”  With the holiday season drawing closer, Alberts questioned what the industry would be left with after.

“We’re still in very, very dark waters and restaurants and iconic tourism spots have had to close down as they haven’t been able to sustain themselves to the point where they can’t even go through the holiday season… a lot of people have lost their jobs.”

Prof Karim says: We’re doing Incredibly Well

According to overall coronavirus statistics, the country is doing ‘incredibly well’ in its response to the pandemic, and there is no need for concern. Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee Chairperson,  said that the country is doing very well. Karim said that while new infections may be quite high on a daily basis, when looking at a seven-day average the country is not experiencing a spike yet.

“If you look at a seven-day average, we have been pretty steady and going reasonably well. We had a bit of an incline but it has (now) settled down and the situation now is that we have local transmission at a pretty local level.”

According to Karim the country has seen some outbreaks in recent weeks – particularly in parts of the Eastern Cape, but these outbreaks appear to be under control following an initial spike in infections. Karim said that that his advice at this stage of the epidemic is to continue with the current lockdown restrictions as they are. “We are at this stage in a pretty good position overall in the epidemic, there is no need for us to change anything in my view. There is a problem, which is December – when December comes, people are going to move around a lot and this virus loves movement.”

Professor Karim did however share a major concern: South Africans are becoming increasingly complacent and careless when it comes to the virus.  People have dropped their guard, not wearing mask, not sanitising or washing hands frequently, and no longer avoiding crowded spaces where social distancing is impossible. This phenomenon is known as ‘pandemic fatigue’ and it not unique to South Africa. “We are heading into a December period which carries quite a lot of risk. We have hope that we can get through it by just ensuring that we become more vigilant and control the prospects of super-spreader events. If we can do that, then we can get through December with just a little spike. Because if we don’t then we are looking at a prospect of a second surge.”

Karim believes that South Africa already has ‘good’ rules in place regarding events and wearing of masks during its level 1 lockdown.  Instead of further restrictions, it is more an issue of enforcement of existing restrictions.

New Lockdown Restrictions Considered by Government

The South African government is considering reinstating several restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic as fears about a second wave of infections mount.  Officials familiar with the Government’s response to the pandemic confirmed that the government was discussing returning some of the curbs South Africans face while under strict lockdown.  The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not yet been made public.

South Africa introduced one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns on March 27, and progressively eased it over months to restart the economy as the number of new virus cases declined. This declining trend has however reversed in several areas and an alarming rise in infections have been recorded in some provinces, and especially in the Eastern Cape.

“When we fail to wear a mask at a social gathering, when we attend crowded events, we are not only putting ourselves and others at risk,” President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly newsletter. “We are also putting our economic recovery in jeopardy.”

Of the 737,278 people diagnosed with the disease in the country so far, more than 90% have recovered, while 19,089 have died, according to the department of health data.

The National Coronavirus Command Council will consider inputs from a range of experts when it meets this week, and its recommendations will be presented to the cabinet on 13 November, said minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu. Ramaphosa will then address the nation on the way forward later this week.

The pandemic’s resurgence is posing a challenge for the country’s Independent Electoral Commission, which is holding by-elections in 95 municipal wards where councillors have died or resigned. Voting has been suspended for the past 7 months but the IEC said that it was ready to go ahead with voting.   Strict health protocols will be enforced and lines of voters will be spread out, Sy Mamabolo, the commission’s chief executive officer told media on Monday. Special votes will be cast on Tuesday, including several that are being held at Covid-19 isolation facilities.

SA Can’t Afford Another Lockdown

Western Cape premier Alan Winde  said that it is vitally important for South Africa to deal with Covid-19 hotspots as they appear – because the country cannot afford to re-enter the lockdown. In a briefing on Thursday (5 November), Winde said that he was concerned that a number of European territories had re-entered lockdown – especially countries such as Germany which had previously been seen as a leading example in its Covid-19 response. “We have to avert this, we have to ensure that we don’t go into a further lockdown (as) South Africa cannot afford it. Our economy cannot afford it, we are getting poorer, we are losing jobs and we need to recover now.”

According to Winde the country’s economy can only recover and begin to claw back jobs if it continually makes the management of Covid-19 a ‘habit’, and understanding risk areas. “If we get things right then we can avert that second wave and can focus our energy on recovery instead of spending too much time on managing and preparing for a second-wave (of Covid-19 cases).”

President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to brief the nation next week on South Africa’s lockdown strategy around the coronavirus pandemic and concerns that a stricter lockdown will be imposed is no longer considered as unsubstantiated.  Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu on Thursday (5 November) said that the briefing will be based on a cabinet meeting and suggestions provided by the National Coronavirus Command Council which are to be held later this week.

Mthembu said that the cabinet was concerned that South Africans have grown increasingly indifferent in their response to the pandemic and are no longer following lockdown regulations. “Cabinet is concerned that some people are behaving recklessly and irresponsibly as if Covid-19 no longer exists. Cabinet calls on all people in South Africa to continue adhering to the health protocols of practising social distancing, wearing masks in public and washing our hands with water and soap or an alcohol-based sanitiser, and avoid large gatherings.”

Thsonono Buyeye,  the acting executive mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, said that the reintroduction of a hard lockdown in the metro, while not ideal, may need to be considered to help save lives. “A harder lockdown is not ideal, but to save lives the option might need to be explored again as the numbers are increasing rapidly. In just one day this week, we had close to 400 new infections. Unfortunately, the infections go with deaths and we have seen the deaths in the country have surpassed the 19,000 mark,” he said.

KwaZulu Natal premier Sihle Zikalala said that a return to a hard lockdown is on the cards, unless the country sees a decline in the number of daily coronavirus cases. “Looking at the statistics, we can now safely say that we are definitely going back into a hard lockdown if there is no urgent and drastic change in behaviour,” the premier said.

Ramaphosa to address the nation about careless behaviour

President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to brief the nation next week on South Africa’s lockdown strategy around the coronavirus pandemic. Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu on Thursday (5 November) said the briefing will be based on a cabinet meeting and suggestions provided by the National Coronavirus Command Council which are to be held later this week.

Mthembu added that the cabinet was very concerned that South Africans have grown indifferent in their response to the pandemic and are no longer following lockdown regulations. “Cabinet is concerned that some people are behaving recklessly and irresponsibly as if Covid-19 no longer exists,” he said.

“Cabinet calls on all people in South Africa to continue adhering to the health protocols of practising social distancing, wearing masks in public and washing our hands with water and soap or an alcohol-based sanitiser, and avoid large gatherings.” Mthembu said that responsible behaviour will ensure that the country minimises the rates of infections whilst it struggles to rebuild the failing economy.

Several senior government officials have warned of an increase of coronavirus infections in parts of South Africa, with health systems facing further strain. South Africa reported 1,712 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday (4 November), taking the total reported cases to 730,548. Deaths have reached 19,585 while recoveries have climbed to 660,185, leaving the country with a balance of 50,778 active cases, and a recovery rate of 90%.

This week Thsonono Buyeye, acting executive mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, said that the reintroduction of a hard lockdown in the metro, while not ideal, will be considered if it can save more lives.  “A harder lockdown is not ideal, but to save lives the option might need to be explored again as the numbers are increasing rapidly. In just one day this week, we had close to 400 new infections. Unfortunately, the infections go with deaths and we have seen the deaths in the country have surpassed the 19,000 mark,” Buyeye said.

The acting mayor added that the reason for the city seeing a second wave in coronavirus cases was due to non-compliance with current health and safety regulations. The NMB government’s comments follow similar sentiments from KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala, who warned that a return to a hard lockdown is on the cards, unless the country sees a decline in the number of daily coronavirus cases.

“Looking at the statistics, we can now safely say that we are definitely going back into a hard lockdown if there is no urgent and drastic change in behaviour,” the premier said. President Ramaphosa however dismissed ‘rumours’ that South Africa is returning to a hard lockdown, but he said there are worrying trends related to Covid-19 infections, such as super spreader events.

“As South Africans we need to adhere to the measures that have been put to us by the medical advisory committee,” he said. “In the coming days…I will be able to address the people of South Africa about what we now need to do in the light of what we are going through,” he said at the end of October.

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