Flash Briefing: New Covid variant in SA; Treasury blocks Sanral’s R7bn Brics loan; Western Cape weather warning

  • Health minister Joe Phaahla says that the discovery of the new B.1.1.529 Covid variant is still ‘very fresh news’ and has caught the government by surprise, with health officials and scientists still monitoring the situation to determine how it could impact South Africa. Phaahla said that the government was only fully briefed on the new variant on Thursday morning and expects to receive further data over the weekend. He added that meetings will be held with government officials, president Cyril Ramaphosa’ cabinet, and the National Coronavirus Command Council in the coming days to discuss possible intervention measures and restrictions. While Phaahla said that it was too early to predict what the exact line of action will be, he noted that the government has learnt a number of lessons over the past 21 months on what causes a Covid-19 wave to emerge and how to prevent the spread of a new variant. 
  • Following reports that road agency Sanral had been approved for a R7bn loan from the Brics New Development Bank, the group has clarified that it could not get the loan because National Treasury blocked it. The loan was blocked because there was still uncertainty around e-toll collections in Gauteng, and Treasury was not prepared to take on the guarantees for the loan while this uncertainty persists. The government has been dithering on e-tolls for several years now. Motorists in the province refuse to pay for the system that was forced on them without consultation, and authorities, despite many promises, refuse to provide any plan for the system.
  • A storm headed for the Western Cape is expected to make landfall from late on Thursday night and continue throughout Friday, the SA Weather Service warned during a briefing to the provincial disaster management centre. Regions expected to be most affected by the adverse conditions are the coastal regions along the Overberg and south-eastern parts of Cape Town, including Strand, Muizenberg and Cape Point, while the Cape Winelands is expected to “see the brunt of the bad weather”, said Local government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell.
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