Flash Briefing: SA Covid-19 cases down to new low; new Delta variant in UK and US; Numsa strike

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  • South Africa has recorded a daily average of just 637 new Covid-19 cases over the past week. The last time the country saw levels of infection this low was during the early stages of the pandemic in May 2020, less than three months after the country’s first case was detected. Hospital admissions and Covid-19 deaths are also drastically down. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), fewer than 5,000 people were in hospital with Covid-19 by Tuesday – a drop of around 65% in two months. However, while South Africa sees a drastic reduction in cases, hospital admissions, and deaths, in other parts of the world are seeing a resurgence. Europe has an infection rate of 233 new daily cases per million people, up more than 50% over the past month. Cases in the United Kingdom (UK) are also on the rise, with the 7-day rolling average of new daily cases at 651 per million people, one of the highest rates in the world. But concerns surrounding a fourth Covid-19 wave in South Africa persist, thanks to a slow vaccination rate and the upcoming municipal elections which could trigger super spreader events.
  • Scientists around the world are closely tracking a descendent of the highly infectious Delta variant that has been found in both the UK and the US. The new variant, known as AY.4.2, is said to be 10% more infectious than its predecessor, though cases are still very low. Former FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb says that while the new variant isn’t an “immediate cause for concern”, “urgent research” is required to determine whether it is more infectious or able to avoid the body’s immune response.
  • Hours after announcing it had reached a landmark wage agreement with striking sector workers, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) postponed a media briefing on the matter, saying a new date and time would be announced. Seifsa had previously revised its 4% offer to 6%, but that was rejected by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa). The union said it would hold a separate briefing, where it will give its position on the wage agreement and the “future of the strike”. According to Seifsa, in its first week alone, the strike cost R100m in lost wages and warned that a protracted strike could be worse than the 2014 strike which cost the economy R6b.
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