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Beijing cuts flights to curb potential spread of mounting coronavirus cases
17 June 2020, 8:22 AM

Scores of domestic flights in and out of Beijing were cancelled on Wednesday as officials ramped up attempts to contain a coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese capital over the past week that has sparked fears of renewed wider contagion. Health officials recorded 31 new confirmed infections for June 16, bringing the cumulative infections since Thursday to 137 cases, the worst resurgence of the disease in the city since early February.

Authorities on Tuesday raised Beijing to a level two alert, the second-highest level in a four-tier COVID-19 emergency response level system. That reversed a one step downgrade from level two to level three a mere 10 days earlier. Some 27 neighbourhoods have been designated as medium-risk areas where people entering are subjected to temperature checks and registration.

One neighbourhood, near the massive wholesale food centre detected as the source of the latest outbreak, was marked high-risk. The city’s roads and highways were still open, companies and factories were not ordered to stop work, and there was no blanket curb on residential compounds. But movement of people in and out of the city was strictly controlled and subject to COVID-19 tests, while residents in high-risk areas were both quarantined and required to undergo tests. Kindergartens, primary schools and high schools were shut.

Aviation data tracker Variflight showed that half the scheduled inbound flights and 40% of outbound flights from Beijing Capital International Airport, one of the city’s two major airports, have been or will likely be cancelled on Wednesday. The majority of the flights are domestic routes.

State media reported that rail officials were granting full refunds on all tickets to and from Beijing booked before Tuesday evening, an apparent bid to discourage people from travelling even though services have not been officially cancelled. All outbound taxi and car-hailing services, and some long-distance bus routes to nearby Hebei and Shandong provinces were cancelled on Tuesday. Some Beijing residents worried that the city was inching closer to a lockdown, echoing the strict bans on movement earlier this year in the city of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected at a seafood market in December.

“What I’m worried about is whether there will be a level one response like it was before, making it impossible for people to work,” said a 23-year-old media sector worker who gave her surname as Wang. The Beijing outbreak has been traced to the massive Xinfadi wholesale food centre in the southwest of the city where thousands of tonnes of vegetables, fruit and meat are traded each day. Xinfadi is much larger than than the Wuhan sea food market, from where the virus spread around the world, infecting more than 8 million people.

Contagion risks 

State media has cited experts as saying the latest outbreak in Beijing was different from Wuhan because the cases were localised and the source of the infection was clear, allowing authorities to more easily get the situation under control. However, Hebei, Liaoning, Sichuan and Zhejiang provinces have all reported new cases linked to Xinfadi, leading provinces concerned about contagion to impose quarantine requirements on visitors from Beijing.

Heilongjiang, which only recently brought a local outbreak under control, said it will impose 21 days of quarantine on people who have had contact with Xinfadi or have a history of residence in medium to high risk areas in Beijing. The northeastern province said any other travellers from Beijing will be quarantined at a centralised location for up to three days, followed by another 14 days of self-isolation.

Authorities in the Chinese territory of Macau, the world’s biggest casino hub, said people who have been to Beijing within two weeks of arriving in Macau will be quarantine for 14 days at a designated location.

End Violence Against women Logo
Evelyn de Kock’s alleged killer due in court on Wednesday
17 June 2020, 7:26 AM

The man arrested for stabbing Evelyn de Kock to death will appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

The 50-year old suspect was arrested in Eldorado Park, Johannesburg, on Monday.

De Kock’s body was discovered in her family’s back room with multiple stab wounds in Eersterust, east of Pretoria on Sunday.

Her family says it hopes justice will swiftly take its course.

Women, Persons with Disability and Youth minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, visited the family of the 42-year-old to offer condolences on behalf of government on Tuesday.

Nkoana-Mashabane says gender-based violence can be defeated through a collective effort of men and women working together.

“We are working on these issues of Gender Based Violence but we need CSOs, we need NPOs. We need NGOs particularly those that are led by men that this is not an African style. This is not a South African style. We are all saying enough is enough.”

“I don’t want to see him again. I don’t want to see that man anymore. I don’t want to see him. I feel very very down, very very heartbroken. Very very heartbroken. Yes because he didn’t like her to have friends, with us, me and her sisters and brothers. She must all day be with him in her room. He didn’t want her with us and he was doing anything for her. She must only stay there in that room,” says the deceased’s mother, Grace Ngwatla.

De Kock’s killing is one of many femicide cases that have raised the ire of South Africans who are calling for more to be done to protect women.

In the video below, Black Doek MovementSA calls for meaningful action against GBV:

President Cyril Ramaphosa has also condemned the scourge, calling on South Africans to end the culture of silence around the crime.

According to the President’s statement on this, South Africa has among the highest levels of intimate partner violence in the world, with as much as 51% of South African women having experienced violence at the hands of someone with whom they are in a relationship.

“In far too many cases of gender-based violence, the perpetrators are known to the victim, but they are also known to our communities. That is why we say this is a societal matter, and not a matter of law enforcement alone. Gender-based violence thrives in a climate of silence. With our silence, by looking the other way because we believe it is a personal or family matter, we become complicit in this most insidious of crimes,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President has urged communities to work with the police and report any tip-offs they may have to the Crime Stop Hotline on 08600 10111 or send an anonymous SMS to Crime Line at 32211, or to call the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre at 0800 428 428.

COVID-19 has had severe impact on downgraded sub-Saharan African countries: Fitch Ratings Agency
12 June 2020, 9:34 PM

The coronavirus pandemic and the oil price shock it triggered have had a severe impact on sovereigns in sub-Saharan Africa, which led to rating downgrades on seven of the 19 rated SSA sovereigns since the beginning of March 2020, Fitch Ratings says.

Four sovereigns in the region have Negative Outlooks on their rating, which is unusually high, pointing to continued downside risks to ratings. Four sovereigns are rated ‘CCC’ or below (in such cases Fitch does not assign Outlooks) while only one (Cote d’Ivoire) carries a Positive Outlook.

Fitch forecasts the median real GDP for rated SSA sovereigns will contract by 2.1% in 2020, before returning to growth at 4% in 2021, which is barely above trend growth. The global shock has had a strong impact on the SSA region via commercial and financial linkages, and domestic containment measures – with many countries imposing lockdowns and curfews – have caused severe disruption to economic activity in many countries.

The shock has hit the main African oil exporters – Angola, the Republic of Congo, Gabon and Nigeria – particularly hard given their high reliance on oil revenue for fiscal and external financing and the indirect dependence of the non-oil sector on oil revenue. Countries with a concentration on tourism, particularly Cabo Verde and the Seychelles, have also been badly affected.

In the video below, is a discussion on the rand’s continued plunge after a Fitch downgrade:

The fall in revenue, combined with additional spending from the healthcare sector will lead to a surge in deficits and debt levels in 2020; for a majority of countries debt will continue to rise in 2021. While global financial conditions have stabilised somewhat, access to commercial financing remains constrained on international markets and domestic debt markets are often shallow, raising the risk of liquidity challenges.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has responded by expanding its rapid financing instruments, which 12 of the 19 sovereigns have accessed, and more countries are expected to agree regular IMF programmes that would open up other bilateral and multilateral funding.

The G20 has approved a Debt Service Suspension Initiative under which bilateral debt service payments due until end-2020 (potentially extended until 2021) can be paid later. Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and Ethiopia have signed an agreement while others, including Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria, have requested participation.

As Fitch’s Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) only refer to defaults on commercial debt, participation would not constitute a default. While a broader private-sector moratorium could qualify as a default, this does not seem sufficiently likely to affect ratings. – Report by Fitch Ratings

Education activists launch urgent court bid over school nutrition programme
12 June 2020, 4:42 PM

Education activists are taking government to court for allegedly backtracking on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

Child rights group, Equal Education and school governing bodies (SGBs) from two Limpopo schools have launched an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria over the Basic Department of Education and Provincial Education Departments’ failure to roll-out the nutrition programme to all learners as previously promised.

Government, through the NSP, provides meals to over 9 million learners countrywide. However the programme was put on hold when schools went on recess during the coronavirus lockdown, which began on March 27, 2020.

In the video below, COVID-19 Lockdown affects learners’ school nutrition programme:

Following talks with government in late May, Section 27 and Equal Education said the Department of Basic Education had promised that it would reinstate the nutrition programme to all eligible learners when schools reopened for grades 7 and 12 on June 1.

The department however changed tune when the schools reopened, saying it only had the intention to provide the meals to all eligible learners at a later stage, but would for the time being provide food to grade 7 and 12 pupils.

“The DBE’s Standard Operating Procedures on COVID-19 make provision for the roll-out of NSNP to occur in a safe and hygienic manner. The DBE has provided no reasonable justification for its limitation of the NSNP to only grades 7 and 12 learners. The current disaster does not serve as a basis to deprive learners of their right to nutrition, and the DBE’s failure to direct provinces to roll-out the NSNP for all eligible learners disproportionally affects learners from poor and working class families,” Equal Education and the SGBs say in a joint statement.

The group says increased Child Support Grant or COVID-19 special economic mitigation measures were insufficient relief for some families. The activists say they have received “gravely” concerning testimonies from learners, caregivers, educators and SGB members about the dire hardship faced by children across the country in the absence of the NSNP.

Equal Education says the delay in reinstating the programme for all learners violates their constitutional rights to basic nutrition, basic education and equality, which must be protected even during a time of National State of Disaster.

Minerals Department satisfied with COVID-19 protocols at mines
11 June 2020, 9:27 PM

The Department of Minerals and Energy says it is satisfied at the mining companies‘ level of compliance with its health and safety guidelines for managing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. That’s despite the number of infections on the mines increasing daily.

The number of mineworkers who have tested positive for the coronavirus now stands at 750. Two days ago, 690 mineworkers had tested positive.

This means there were 60 new cases on Wednesday alone. But government says there’s no reason to worry and the situation is under control.

“Our teams are out there to do the inspections, the report that we have received is that there is actually a deal of compliance by the mining companies. So we are quite satisfied with that kind of report because we know that there are many mines, they are all over the country and we don’t actually have stats at the moment, but the work is actually being done and the report is that the there is actually a great deal of compliance,” say the Director- General of the Department of Minerals and Energy, Advocate Thabo Mokoena.

Mining output

As the efforts to contain the spread of the virus, COVID-19’s bite continues to be felt across industries.

Earlier on Thursday, Statistics South Africa said the pandemic and lockdown regulations have had an extensive impact on mining output and overall economic activity.

According to Stats SA, mining production decreased by over 47% in April 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

In the video below, is an analysis of mining production during COVID-19 pandemic: 

The largest contributors to the decline in mining production came from platinum, iron ore, gold and manganese miners.

Nedbank Economist Busi Radebe says the significant drop in production was expected.

“Mining opened earlier than other industries. If you look at the numbers I think it was at the height of the lockdown, I think it was about 60% of the economy working but mining starts slowly opening, now it’s fully open. So you will see the production numbers go up quite a bit from this point onwards, but the big story here is probably going to be on the sale side if there’s demand for South Africa’s mineral production in the rest of the world and that going to be the big ticker this year.” – Additional reporting by Naledi Ngcobo

 

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