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India delays COVID-19 vaccine supplies to WHO-backed COVAX, sources say
19 October 2021, 12:58 PM

India has delayed committing supplies of vaccines to the COVAX global sharing platform, two sources told Reuters on Tuesday, a day after one of its key backers, the WHO, said the agency could not “cut corners” to approve a domestically developed vaccine.

The world’s biggest vaccine maker resumed exports of COVID-19 doses this month for the first time since April. It has sent about 4 million to countries such as neighbouring Bangladesh and Iran, but none to COVAX.

On Monday, in the run-up to an Oct. 26 meeting on Covaxin, India’s first domestically developed COIVD-19 vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it could not “cut corners” in the approval decision.

One of the sources said it was “frustrating” that India had yet to confirm any supply to COVAX, despite a promise last month by the health minister to meet the commitment to COVAX and others during the quarter to December.

The sources, who have been briefed on the export talks, declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak on the subject.

The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, has contracts to supply hundreds of millions of doses of a licensed version of the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine to COVAX and countries such as Bangladesh.

Its output of the vaccine has more than tripled since April, reaching 220 million doses a month now.

India’s health ministry, SII, and COVAX co-leads, the WHO and GAVI, did not respond to requests for comment.

Delayed supplies to COVAX could disrupt inoculation drives in many African nations that rely on it for vaccine supplies.

Indian government officials have said they are confident the WHO will soon approve an emergency-use listing for Covaxin, which makes up 11% of the 990 million vaccine doses given in India, with the rest mostly from AstraZeneca.

A few weeks ago, Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of SII, told the Telegraph newspaper that his company would recommence exports to COVAX in October.

“Initially these supplies will be small, but by January 2022, once we have satisfied domestic demands … we will see large volumes go to COVAX,” he added.

Before India halted overseas vaccine shipments in April so as to meet domestic demand, it donated or sold more than 66 million COVID-19 doses, including Covaxin.

Fuel price hike of catastrophic proportions expected in November
19 October 2021, 12:55 PM

The Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa says South Africans should brace themselves for a fuel price hike of what they are calling catastrophic proportions, in November.

Reflecting on international figures, the AA says data points to a potential 99 cents a litre increase, in the price of petrol.

Diesel and illuminating paraffin is expected to increase by approximately R1. 42 a litre.

AA spokesperson, Layton Beard says they are worried about the price increase.

“When we look at the numbers it’s very clear that increasing international petrolatum prices are driving these significant increases that are likely to occur when the price is adjusted for November. We are very worried about the fact that these increases will be significant. A rand in the case of petrol and R1.42 in diesel. This will push the prices of petrol and diesel again into record territory after we saw it was in record territory in August and September.”

Programme co-ordinator of the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group Mervyn Abrahams, says the poor will be the hardest hit by the fuel price hike.

Abrahams says the increase in the price of petrol is likely to push up food and transportation costs.

“The impact of such increases will be disastrous for low-income households and will deepen the current household affordably crisis. We have seen this year a basket of 44 foods increasing by R364 over the past 12 month period and these increases in petrol and diesel prices will lead to a further food price increase. It will also increase transport costs leaving less money for food and other expenditure. We know that it is the poorest households in South Africa that use paraffin so the situation will become dire.”

CEO of the Fuel Retailers Association, Reggie Sibiya discusses the impact of fuel hikes on retailers: 4 August 2021

 

Ace Magashule’s pre-trial hearing postponed to November
19 October 2021, 11:38 AM

The pre-trial hearing of suspended African National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General Ace Magashule and co-accused at the High Court in Bloemfontein on Tuesday has been postponed to the 3rd of November.

Magashule, 10 others, and five companies face charges relating to the alleged irregular awarding of the R255 million asbestos roofing scandal.

They face more than 70 counts of fraud, corruption, theft, and money laundering.  Tshabalala says he will give support to Magashule just like any other leaders in the party.

Ace Magashule appears in court:

Meanwhile, Magashule has denied reports that he is fast losing support both inside and outside of the ANC. He says he still doesn’t understand why he’s being prosecuted by the ANC using state organs for an asbestos matter he was never a part of.

Magashule spoke to the media before the court started.

“Very soon you will see my support. What support am I losing, I’m losing support, then the ANC is losing support. Because my support is ANC support.”

Magashule addresses the media before court appearance:

The suspended ANC Chief Whip in the Free State legislature Vusi Tshabalala is among those who had come to show support to Magashule.

While there was visibly no huge traffic volumes of supporters, outside the court a handful of Democratic Alliance (DA) supporters carrying placards bearing anti Magashule slogans were spotted.

Whistleblower in the asbestos corruption case, Leona Kleynhans, says they are determined to get justice for thousands of residents who still live under asbestos-roofed houses in the province. Kleynhans, who is a DA member in the Free State Legislature, joined a handful of party supporters who protested demonstrated outside the High Court in Bloemfontein.

Kleynahns says they are emboldened by the Public Protector’s report which found that the Free State asbestos roof removal contract was irregularly awarded.

Tshabalala and Kleynhans speak to SABC News outside the court:

 

Matriculants urged to take breaks regularly whilst studying
19 October 2021, 11:17 AM

Take a break! That’s the message to the class of 2021 from an educational psychologist ahead of the final matric examinations later this month.

Psychologist Nicola Buhr says the vast majority of students face crippling stress and anxiety levels during this time because they have not created a study schedule.

Parents are also advised to spend time with their children during breaks to monitor their stress and prevent burnout.

Buhr says aside from proper planning, a healthy diet, daily exercise, and adequate sleep are essential at this time.

“With COVID-19, on top of that where I’ve seen difficulty with matrics it’s just been quite inconsistent for them, so it has just been online and then offline and having to make adjustments and be more flexible which are good skills in itself to learn. But it is difficult and we should recognise that there have been under a lot more pressure. If you want to cope for another 6-7 weeks. You cant study consistency for seven weeks without a break. If you want your mental health to cope, if you want your anxiety levels to stay lower, you need sleep, you need good nutrition, you need breaks.”

Mental healthcare access in South Africa very limited: WHO

With October being Mental Health Awareness Month, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), has initiated a number of programmes to stimulate discussions and increase access to mental health.

SADAG Operations Director Cassey Chambers says the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem, as the effects of lockdown have impacted negatively on the physical, financial, and emotional wellbeing of people.

“SADAG is raising awareness tied in with the international theme for World Mental Health Day that’s looking at mental health in an unequal world which couldn’t be more true for SA. With one in three South Africans who will have a mental health issue at some point, yet only one in 10 have access to treatment. This has to change. For October, SADAG is hosting various online chats, through our Facebook Friday where we tackle important topics. This is free important expert advice. We have exciting events happening throughout the month of October.”

SADAG urges South Africans to take care of their mental health

SADAG has also highlighted the importance of taking care of one’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chambers says the effects of the pandemic have caused increased anxiety in the public. She says in 2020, their call center received over 90 000 calls on the suicide helpline.

SADAG says before the pandemic they received 600 calls a day and after the outbreak, those numbers doubled.

Chambers says anxiety, fear over job losses, finances, and relationships have been some of the problems many South Africans are facing during this time.

Mental health is the second pandemic after COVID-19:

Security tightened ahead of Ace Magashule’s court appearance
19 October 2021, 8:36 AM

African National Congress (ANC) members are expected to arrive at the Bloemfontein High Court this Tuesday, as suspended ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule and 15 others appear for fraud, corruption, and money laundering charges.

During the last court appearance in August, a few members of the ANC gathered outside the court, saying people have had to stay at home due to COVID-19 regulations.

A staunch supporter of Magashule, the suspended MKMVA’s Carl Niehaus says a large number of ANC supporters are making their way to the Bloemfontein High Court.

Security has been beefed up in and around the court precinct.

The court is cordoned off with barbed wire ahead of the pre-trail, roads at the precinct of the court are closed.

The co-accused include former Human Settlements MEC Olly Mlamleli, businessman Edwin Sodi and former Human Settlements head of department Nthimotse Mokhesi.

They are facing more than 70 charges of fraud, corruption, and money laundering. The charges relate to the alleged irregular awarding of the asbestos roof eradication contract that dates back to 2014.

They are facing more than 70 counts of fraud, corruption, theft, and money laundering.

SABC News reporter Samkele Maseko gives an update on the case: 19 October 2021

 

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