Covid-19 deaths at 1,500; SA-linked vaccine tops WHO list; hairdressers vs NDZ

By Jackie Cameron

  • Nearly 1,500 people have died of Covid-19 in South Africa, the government said at the weekend, highlighting that Deputy Minister of Correctional Services Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa has tested positive for coronavirus. More than 1,000 of these deaths have been reported in the Western Cape, with the country’s second-highest Covid-19 death toll in the Eastern Cape at a significantly lower number of just over 200.
  • The South Africa-linked Covid-19 vaccine, backed by Sygnia, is leading clinical trials. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released its “Draft landscape of Covid-19 candidate vaccines”, reports The vaccine being developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, working with the Oxford Vaccine Group, tops the list and is at the most advanced stage of testing, says the website. South African investment management company Sygnia owns a 16% share in Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), which in turn owns the right to commercialise all the IP which comes out of Oxford University. Sygnia founder and CEO Magda Wierzycka explained that retail investors can buy a shareholding in OSI though some of their unit trusts, such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution unit trusts, as well as an exclusive product called Sygnia OSI Fund. “Obviously the access to these shares is quite scarce and so we’ve got a lot more commitments to the fund than we have shares available at the moment,” Wierzycka is quoted as saying. Wierzycka has highlighted that neither Sygnia nor any other investors funding the development of the vaccine will profit from it during the pandemic. The return on investment will only come in future years if the vaccine works.
  • There are about 90,000 people active in the hair and beauty sector who are keen to get back to work in what is a R300bn industry and were dealt a blow when a much awaited legal showdown between the DA and co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was postponed in court. The Democratic Alliance has blamed Dlamini-Zuma for the delay, and is reported by as saying that she missed the original deadline to file legal papers and was granted an extension to later this week. The DA said it went to court to protect the livelihoods of “hundreds of thousands of people” in the personal care industry and that Minister Dlamini-Zuma “has been cavalier with the livelihoods of those people across the country”.
  • Ratings agency Fitch said on Friday it expected South Africa’s economy to shrink 5.5% this year, as the coronavirus lockdown batters an economy already in recession, says Reuters. Fitch downgraded South Africa’s credit rating further into “junk” territory in April, citing the lack of a clear path towards government debt stabilisation and the expected impact of the Covid-19 shock on public finances and growth. In an outlook on sub-Saharan African sovereigns, Fitch said it projected the fiscal deficit would surge to 14.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal year, with government debt seen rising to 80.9% of GDP. The global economy will contract the most since World War II this year and emerging nations’ output will shrink for the first time in at least six decades, lowering incomes and sending millions into poverty, the World Bank said, according to Bloomberg.
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