Flash Briefing: E-tolls may be scrapped in Gauteng; you can now agree Covid is manmade, on Facebook; post offices shut

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  • South Africa’s rising coronavirus infections, which jumped by 33% on Wednesday, puts pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa to reintroduce stricter lockdown measures, reports Bloomberg. The country has been slow off the mark to administer vaccines, with the latest health department data showing just 761,903 people out of a population of almost 60 million have received the shots. The majority of cases are in the three most-populous provinces.
  • South Africa is planning to scrap electronic road tolls in the nation’s main commercial hub, Gauteng Member of the Executive Council for Transport Jacob Mamabolo said. The state-owned South African National Roads Agency has faced resistance to e-tolls from motorists since their inception in 2013, says Bloomberg. Sanral’s debt to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project may increase by two-thirds to about R67bn ($4.9bn) if the tolls are canceled, the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times reported in September.
  • The South African Post Office is in the process of permanently closing 130 branches across the country. The figure was confirmed by Post Office CEO Nomkhita Mona during a briefing to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications on Wednesday.
  • Earthquakes following a volcanic eruption in Goma, a city near Congo’s border with Rwanda, are disrupting exports of tin concentrate from mineral-rich North Kivu province, the International Tin Association (ITA) told Reuters on Thursday. The disruption to Congolese tin exports – which account for 8% of the world’s tin-in-concentrate, according to the ITA – is likely to exacerbate shortages of the soldering metal, prices of which last week touched 10-year highs at $30,650 a tonne, says the news agency.
  • Facebook has ended its ban on posts asserting Covid-19 was man-made or manufactured, a policy shift that reflects a deepening debate over the origins of the pandemic that was first identified in Wuhan, China, almost 18 months ago. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed US intelligence report. “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of Covid-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that Covid-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps,” Facebook said in a statement on its website.

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