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China’s factories reopen, only to fire workers as virus shreds global trade
26 March 2020, 10:31 AM

Shi Xiaomin, who used to export suits and blazers by the thousands to South Korea, the Netherlands and the United States, was luckier than many other Chinese factory owners.

When his factory in the eastern city of Wenzhou reopened last month after an extended shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, the local government sent a bus to a nearby province to ferry back more than 20 of his stranded workers.

Staff with cars volunteered to fetch colleagues.

However Shi’s optimism was short-lived. In the past week, requests to cancel orders or delay shipments from his European and US clients have flooded in.

Early in the outbreak, China imposed tough travel restrictions and factory suspensions to curb the spread of the virus, squeezing labour supplies and sending exporters scrambling to fulfil orders.

Now the reverse is now happening – overseas orders are being scrapped as the pandemic ravages the economies of China’s trading partners.

“The unprecedented shutdown of normal economic activity across Europe, the US and a growing number of emerging markets is certain to cause a dramatic contraction in Chinese exports, probably in the range of a 20-45% year-on-year drop in the second quarter,” said Thomas Gatley, senior analyst at research firm Gavekal Dragonomics.

Shi said his fabric supplier in hard-hit Italy suspended operations on Sunday, meaning no fresh raw materials from May. His stockpile of fabric will last until the end of April.

Shi said he would slow production and might suspend all output soon if business does not improve.

He also told the 50-odd workers who have yet to return from Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, to find jobs elsewhere.

“We know this year is bad and next year would be better, but the question is how many factories can make it to next year?” Shi said.


COVID-19 Safety Precautions by SABC Digital News

SLUMPING EXPORTS

Economists had initially anticipated a V-shaped recovery forChina’s economy, similar to that seen after SARS epidemic in2003.

But analysts have since slashed their forecasts to levels not seen since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.

China’s net exports accounted for 11% of economic growth last year.

“The last overseas orders we received were for April,” said Zhu Hongping, chairman of Hangzhou Hongli Food, a supplier of precooked food to restaurants in Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Normally, at this time of the year, orders can stretch to June and July, Zhu said, adding he may have to suspend production in three months.

Even when they do have orders, exporters are worried about constantly changing restrictions countries have adopted to curb the spread of the virus.

“Even if we finish the products, we don’t know if the countries we are shipping to will be locked down,” said Yi-Cheng Sung, who helps manage a factory that produces makeup brushes and accessories in Shenzhen.

On Tuesday, state-owned Securities Times reported Good Will Watch Case Manufacturing, a supplier to the US watch brand Fossil, would put its more than 600 workers on leave for at least three months.

UNEMPLOYMENT

China’s manufacturing sector, accounting for about 40% of gross domestic product and over 20% of jobs, was already suffering from the US-China trade war.

More big layoffs would be a concern for the ruling Communist Party and its focus on social cohesion and economic stability, particularly in a year when Beijing aims to double GDP and disposable incomes from a decade ago.

China’s urban jobless rate hit 6.2% in February, up one percentage point from the end of 2019, and a record since the statistics bureau started publishing the data in early 2018.

Dan Wang, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), said the jobless rate could go up by another 5 percentage points this year, which corresponds to an additional 22 million in urban unemployment, on top of an estimated 5 million jobs lost in January-February.

Another 103 million workers could be affected by salary cuts of 30%-50%, Wang said. A 23-year-old salesman at a mirror factory in Yiwu inZhejiang province said US clients cancelled over $500,000 of orders on Saturday alone.

Some of the factory’s more than 1,000 workers have since been suspended while others are given more days off per week, the salesman said, declining to be named.

“I think the company will start to lay off people soon,” he said.

Confirmed coronavirus cases around the world: 

Mutwa family requests space and time to mourn
26 March 2020, 9:38 AM

The Credo Mutwa Foundation has called on South Africans to join the Mutwa family in mourning the death of world renowned Sanusi, Sangoma and author Credo Mutwa.

Mutwa died on Wednesday morning at the Kuruman Hospital in the Northern Cape at the age of 98.

The Foundation’s spokesperson is Matshediso Setai says, “uBaba Mutwa was rushed to hospital on Tuesday and passed on in the early hours of 25 March 2020… at the age of 98 his health has been fragile and he has been in and out of hospital in recent past days…”

“The foundation is requesting the nation to join the family in mourning and humbly request the space and time to mourn. The foundation will be keeping the nation informed as the details become available,” says Setai.

Traditional healer Aubrey Matshiqi has called on South Africans to take time to reflect on the teachings of traditional healer and world-renowned author.

Matshiqi says Mutwa’s death comes at a time when South Africans were beginning to appreciate his teachings.

“What South Africa has lost is a great healer and a great prophet; one who was gifted immensely by our ancestors. But I am filled with joy by the fact that he leaves us at a time when the country was beginning to remember him. I hope that during the twenty one days of our lockdown, one of the things we are going to do is to meditate on his message,” says Matshiqi.

Refurbished home

In November last year, after years of living in a dilapidated house, Mutwa and his family moved into a large refurbished home.

The construction of the home, which was done by the Department of Arts and Culture, was a stop start affair which left the family uncertain of when it would be finished.

At the handover of the home by Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthetwa, Mutwa’s wife, Virginia, expressed joy at now being able to look after her aging husband in a more habitable home.

“I didn’t agree for my husband to be looked after by the people of the old age. I want to be with him. But today I am so happy because I’m going to be with my husband, loveliest one, my loveliest one than anyone in a beautiful house. No rain will get us.”

Mthethwa explained that renovations to the house of South African legend, Credo Mutwa, are part of the beginning of truly honouring the Sanusi.

“And beyond today there is what we said we should be doing going forward, ongoing engagement; conversation with the public about the role baba Mutwa has played in our country as a sanusi.”

In the video below, Nathi Mthethwa speak to the SABC after handing over the house:

Mutwa returns to Lotlamoreng Dam

In October 2018, Mutwa made an emotional return to the Lotlamoreng Dam in Mahikeng, an area from which he was evicted during Apartheid.

He used the occasion to call on the government to preserve its history and to speed up development in the area.

Many people used to make the trek there to learn from the well-known spiritual leader.

However, over three decades ago the former Bophuthatswana homeland government evicted him from a cave where he had been living with his wife.

“Lotlamoreg is a very important sheet of water. I am talking cold historical truth, history should not be thrown away like an old pumpkin. History should not be scoffed on. History should be not mocked,” said Mutwa.

In the video below, Credo Mutwa’s trust celebrates his life:

Quotes by Credo Mutwa


Credo Mutwa Guotes by SABC Digital News

Government identifies quarantine sites
26 March 2020, 8:28 AM

Government officials have identified quarantine sites across the country as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rise from day to day.

The quarantine sites include government buildings, hotels, holiday properties and hospitals.

South Africa has reported the most coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa with 709 confirmed cases.

Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille told a news conference that her ministry had identified more than 16 000 beds in potential quarantine facilities, including government buildings, hotels, holiday properties and hospitals.

It was not immediately clear who the sites would be used for.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has warned that infections are expected to keep rising, while public health experts worry that the virus could overwhelm the health system if infection rates rise steeply.

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Meanwhile, President President Ramaphosa has been praised for ordering some of the toughest measures on the continent to try to halt the spread of the virus.

Political Analyst from the University of Johannesburg, Professor Mcedisi Ndletyana, has applauded the decisive steps by President.

“I would have hoped the President would have led like this for the past two years and not wait for a catastrophe of this kind to provide the stern and decisive leadership – hopefully this is something he will continue to do in the future because as soon as this thing passes the problems are going to be even more.”

Professor Ndletyana says the President’s leadership and negotiation style has been fruitful for the nation.

“This is one of those instances when consultations because when you shut down the economy you involve a whole lot of people, business, labour and services as well, especially at a crisis like this, government alone cannot do this, the government doesn’t have money, so you have a business that might run out of money and business and retrenchments might be around the corner.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize says President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision on the lockdown is not for people to go on holiday or joy rides across the country.

“If people think that President Ramaphosa is giving them a free holiday of three weeks and they go around galavanting, they must know that we going to pay a price for that right now the level of infection are still very very small.”

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa announces a lockdown from Thursday 26 March to  Thursday, 16 April:

 

Coronavirus
Botswana quarantines citizens travelling from SA
25 March 2020, 11:03 AM

The Botswana government has put under mandatory quarantine citizens who have recently returned to the country after travelling to South Africa.

In a statement, Botswana’s Health and Wellness Ministry says, the measure it has taken is because South Africa is affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

It says it hopes this will prevent the transmission of the fast spreading virus across the country’s borders and says only its nationals will be allowed to back into Botswana during this period.

South Africa’s COVID-19 cases now stand at 709, while Botswana has not recorded any case of the pandemic.

COVID-19 across Africa

There are over 1500 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the African continent with South Africa reporting the highest infections with Algeria second with 231 and Burkina Faso with 92 cases.

A number of African countries have put measures in place to try curb or prevent further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the 54 African countries 37 have confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Kenya confirms eight more coronavirus cases

Kenya has confirmed eight more coronavirus cases in the country, bringing the total to 15. Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe says the patients are five Kenyans, two French nationals and a Mexican.

Kagwe says the patients have been isolated as well as 363 other people who are suspected of having the virus.

Kenya also announced that all international flights in and out of the country will be suspended from Wednesday.

In this video, Kenya confirmed three more positive cases of COVID -19:

Zimbabwe confirms third coronavirus case

On Tuesday one of the confirmed cases succumbed to the new virus. Zororo Makamba (30) was buried in Harare on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe’s latest case is a man who is believed to have been in contact with Zororo Makamba.  According to the Health Ministry says Makamba was buried in accordance with public health guidelines. But his death sparked fury across the Southern African country. Makamba’s family wrote an open letter accusing the Health Department of being inadequate and failing to treat their loved one accordingly.

The radio anchor contracted COVID-19 while in New York to receive treatment for a lung operation.

Meanwhile, government has confirmed the consignment of 20 000 testing kits and other medical products from the Jack Ma Foundation to assist in responding to the outbreak.

Eswatini reports first coronavirus case: Health Ministry

Eswatini, a small landlocked Southern African country, reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)  on Saturday.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has now spread to at least 19 countries across Africa – with recent cases confirmed in Eswatini, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mauritania and Guinea.

In the video below, the Tanzanian government says it will crackdown on fake news peddlers:

Below is a Live Tracking of the cases, death toll and other information, updated daily:

Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS

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All avoidable contact should be avoided: EFF
24 March 2020, 9:51 AM

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have welcomed the nation wide lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday in efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In the statement the EFF says, “All forms of avoidable human contact should be avoided, and this should apply to meetings of less then 100 people.”

The party says it is aware that the lockdown will have devastating economic consequences, but it also considered this measure the only way to contain the spread of the virus.

On Monday night Ramaphosa announced that the country will be on a nation wide lockdown for 21 days as of Thursday Midnight, with all political parties in the National Assembly backing the decision.

Ramaphosa said, “This is a decisive measure to save the lives of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of our people. While this measure will have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, on the life of our society and our economy, the human cost of delaying this action will be far, far greater.”

The number of confirmed cases was confirmed by the Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize to be at 402 on Monday after noon.

The EFF called on government to pay attention to poor communities and people with the purpose of making sure that they don’t run out of basic services such as food and essential health services.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) also welcomed lockdown with its leader, John Steenhuisen, saying “South Africa is facing a wartime situation against the pandemic and has welcomed the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for the lockdown.”

Steenhuisen said, “We’re very pleased that the President has picked up some of the suggestions we have made around the economic intervention. This is really now going to be up to ordinary South Africans. We’re only going to be as strong as the weakest link in our chain.”

DA leader reacts to the national lockdown:

‘Proactive step’

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa says: “UDM supports the government’s lockdown announcement. It’s a proactive step intended in saving the lives of many in South Africa and to further contain the spread of this deadly virus. Yes, it’s inconveniencing but we can’t afford to be reckless.”

Cope spokesperson, Dennis Bloem, says “The Congres of the People is fully behind President Cyril Ramaphosa.  We support the measures that he has announced by trying to address the problem of COVID-19 and we want to urge all South Africans to support and abide by the measures .”

AL Jama-Ah has endorsed the financial stimulus package for Small Businesses. AL Jama-Ah leader Ganief Hendricks says: “I would like to send my gratitude to the Oppenheimer and the Ruppert’s for the billion of rands to assist small businesses and the funding that has been made available by the department to assist small businesses.”

‘Obey President’s instructions’

The IFP has welcomed the moves taken by President Cyril Ramaphosa and has called on South Africans to obey the President’s instructions.

IFP Spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa, “As far as the IFP is concerned this national shutdown is in the national interest and we are giving the government the fullest support and the IFP mayors will make sure that there is adherence from the IFP. We are saying hashtag stay at home.

INFOGRAPHIC: 21-day lockdown measures

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