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NICD reports close to 9000 new COVID-19 cases
9 June 2021, 9:33 PM

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) has released the latest coronavirus statistics that show close to 9000 new cases in the latest reporting period and 127 COVID-19 deaths.

The latest high numbers seem to confirm that South Africa is entering the third wave of the pandemic.

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The NICD says 8 881 new cases were reported in the latest period taking the overall number of cases to more than 1 712 000.

The total number of deaths stands at 57 310.

UAE and SA extradition treaty to help solve alleged corruption case against Guptas
9 June 2021, 6:45 PM

The United Arab Emirates Ambassador to South Africa, Mahash Alhameli, has confirmed that his country has ratified an extradition treaty with South Africa that will ensure that the Guptas are brought back to South Africa to answer to allegations of state capture.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had announced that it had asked Interpol to assist with arrest warrants for Atul and Rajesh Gupta as well as their wives.

The Guptas are believed to have fled to the UAE in early 2018 as criminal investigations for alleged corruption accelerated.

Interpol arrest warrant for Guptas:

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation will be staging a picket at the UAE embassy in Pretoria tomorrow.

Neeshan Bolton the Executive Director at the Foundation explains

“We welcome the fact that finally the extradition treaty has been signed. Last week, the ambassador said to me that there were some technical issues, mainly from the South African side. The South African government was saying to us that the problem was on the UAE side. We were not too sure where exactly the problem was but, in any event, we’re happy that this agreement has now been signed. The demonstration was obviously planned well before this agreement was announced. It will go ahead and the reason why it will go ahead is that it’s one thing for the UAE to sign but more is required from them.”

Gupta associate denied bail

Yesterday businessman and Gupta family associate, Iqbal Sharma, was denied bail by the Bloemfontein Magistrate Court.

The bail application of Sharma resumed on Tuesday morning. He will be back in court on 5 July 2021.

Sharma is amongst 15 accused who are facing charges of fraud, corruption, and money laundering relating to R24.9 million that the Free State Department of Agriculture paid for a feasibility study for potential farming projects in the province.

In the video below Iqbal Sharma denied bail

Brazil to receive 3 million doses of J&J COVID vaccine – minister
9 June 2021, 5:29 PM

Brazil will receive the first batch of 3 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 in the next few days, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on Tuesday.

Queiroga said the export of the vaccines, developed by J&J’s Janssen subsidiary, from the United States still requires authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Of course, if the FDA’s decision is delayed, these 3million doses may no longer be useful for us, due to the short time,” he said testifying before a Senate commission of inquiry into the Brazilian governments handling of the pandemic.

This batch of vaccines expires on June 27. Queiroga said they would have to be administered “very fast” in Brazil’s national immunization program before they expire.

Brazil signed an agreement with Janssen to receive 38 million doses for delivery in the last quarter of this year, so the first batch is arriving earlier than expected, Queiroga said.

The government is being investigated by the Senate commission for delays in securing timely vaccines, which politicians blame on far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-vaccine view.

Brazil has been hit by the second-deadliest COVID-19 outbreak outside of the United States and is behind most countries in vaccinating its population of 210 million.

So far only 14.5% have been fully vaccinated with two doses mainly of CoronaVac, made by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, and the vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer Inc.

Brazil has now registered 17,037,129 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began, in the world’s third-worst outbreak outside the United States and India, and 476,792 people have died of COVID-10, according to ministry data.

In a world first, El Salvador makes bitcoin legal tender
9 June 2021, 5:09 PM

El Salvador has become the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender after Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s proposal to embrace cryptocurrency.

With 62 out of 84 possible votes, lawmakers voted in favour of the move to create a law to adopt bitcoin, despite concern about the potential impact on El Salvador’s program with the International Monetary Fund.

Bukele has touted the use of bitcoin for its potential to help Salvadorans living abroad to send remittances back home while saying the US dollar will also continue as legal tender.

“It will bring financial inclusion, investment, tourism, innovation, and economic development for our country,” Bukele said in a tweet shortly before the vote in Congress, which is controlled by his party and allies.

The use of bitcoin will be optional for individuals and would not bring risks to users, Bukele said. The government will guarantee convertibility to dollars at the time of transaction through a trust created at the country’s development bank BANDESAL.

Its use as legal tender will go into law in 90 days, with the bitcoin-dollar exchange rate set by the market.

Under the law, bitcoin must be accepted by firms when offered as payment for goods and services. Tax contributions can also be paid in bitcoin.

Analysts have said the move could complicate talks with the IMF, where El Salvador seeks a more than $1 billion program.

Bitcoin enjoyed its best day in two weeks, rising5% to $35,197.

“The market will now be focused on adoption through ElSalvador and whether other nations follow,” said Richard Galvin of crypto fund Digital Asset Capital Management. “This could be a key catalyst for bitcoin over the next two to three years.”

REMITTANCES

Emerging economies – where bank penetration is much lower than in developed countries and reliance on money transfers from abroad much higher – have been at the forefront of the cryptocurrency bonanza.

Outside the US, countries with the highest trading volumes and mining activity are all developing nations, according to BofA, including China, Colombia, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

But the use of digital currencies can also pose risks for dollarized economies, such as El Salvador, the bank added.

“Dollarization, the use of foreign currencies, is a major problem for macro and financial stability in many emerging markets, and it could worsen if digitalization facilitates access to foreign currencies,” said David Hauner at BofA.

“The root cause of dollarization is high local inflation, which could worsen, too, if digital currencies prove inflationary.”

El Salvador relies heavily on money sent back from workers abroad. World Bank data showed remittances to the country made up nearly $6 billion or around a fifth of GDP in 2019, one of the highest ratios in the world.

It was not immediately clear what proportion of remittances sent to El Salvador are in the form of bitcoin.

The cryptocurrency offers, in theory, a quick and cheap way to send money across borders without relying on remittance firms typically used for such transactions.

Bukele says some 70% of people in El Salvador lack access to traditional financial services.

Still, the cryptocurrency’s use for remittances globally is patchy. Converting local currencies to and from bitcoin often relies on informal brokers. Prices are volatile, and buying and selling is a complex process that demands technical knowledge.

El Salvador will “promote the necessary training and mechanisms so that the population can access bitcoin transactions,” according to the law.

Eskom implements stage 4 load shedding until 10PM on Wednesday
9 June 2021, 2:38 PM

Eskom has implemented stage four load shedding until 10 tonight. Stage 2 will then continue until 10 pm for the rest of the week.

The power utility says this is due to additional breakdowns at the Medupi Power Station and Duvha – coupled with the high winter demand.

In the video below is Energy Expert Ted Blom

Eskom spokesperson, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, says capacity constraints will continue for the foreseeable future and he has urged the public to reduce their daily electricity usage.

Earlier this week, Eskom warned that the likelihood of load shedding remained high for the rest of the week as the power system remains constrained and vulnerable.

Eskom has again called on South Africans to reduce their electricity usage.

In the video below Eskom’s spokesperson, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, discusses stage 2 load shedding

Understanding Eskom Load Shedding Stages

Eskom says that load shedding will be used under emergency conditions for limited periods.

According to the Power utility four schedules have been developed based on the possibility of risk and to ensure that load shedding is applied in a fair and equitable manner:

  • Stage 1 allows for up to 1000 MW of the national load to be shed.
  • Stage 2 allows for up to 2000 MW of the national load to be shed.
  • Stage 3 allows for up to 3000 MW of the national load to be shed.
  • Stage 4 allows for up to 4000 MW of the national load to be shed.

Load shedding will be implemented in most instances in 2-hour blocks.

  • However, in Eskom-supplied Johannesburg areas, blocks are 4 hours long. This is to coincide with City Power’s 4 hour schedule.

Each of the time periods has an additional 30 minutes added to allow for switching of networks in a way that will not damage the power system.

  • Most customers (those in 2 hour blocks) may therefore be without electricity for up to 2.5 hours at a time, while customers in 4 hour blocks may be without electricity for up to 4.5 hours at a time.

Eskom will begin load shedding customers at the start of the period (for example from 06:00) and will have all scheduled customers switched off within the first half-hour (that is, by 06:30)

At the end of the period, after the two / four hours (that is, by 08:00 or 10:00 as applicable), Eskom will start returning power to customers and should have them all back within half an hour (that is, by 08:30 or 10:30).

The frequency of load shedding increases as higher Stages are used

  • Stage 1 requires the least amount of load shedding, 3 times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or 3 times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.
  • Stage 2 will double the frequency of Stage 1, which means you will be scheduled for load shedding 6 times over a four day period for two hours at a time, or 6 times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time Stage 3 will increase the frequency of Stage 2 by 50%, which means you will be scheduled for load shedding 9 times over a four day period for two hours at a time, or 9 times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.
  • Stage 4 will double the frequency of Stage 2, which means you will be scheduled for load shedding 12 times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or 12 times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.

Eskom says if more load needs to be shed than has been scheduled in Stages 1, 2, 3, and 4 then National Control will instruct additional, unscheduled load shedding. This means you may be shed outside of your scheduled times.

The actual stage in use at the time will be displayed on the main Eskom website and on the home page of the Load Shedding Website, as well as on the MyEskom App.

*Load Shedding stages can be found at Eskom’s website.

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