Three Covid-19 cases; No need for travel ban; Moody’s lowers forecast; Mining preps for virus; Short notice blackouts

By Linda van Tilbuth

  • The number of positive coronavirus cases in South Africa have risen to three, after the wife of the KwaZulu-Natal man who was the first case of the disease in South Africa, also tested positive. A second case in Gauteng is also linked to the couple; they are part of a group of 9 people who returned from a trip to Italy. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said his department was trying to trace all the people who made direct contact with the three people who have tested positive. Mkhize said the woman had been seen by a doctor at Grey’s Hospital. He stressed that the risk of the infection getting out of control was much lower because they all came from the same group. Mkhize said the children of the couple had tested negative for the disease and they would remain out of school in self-isolation until their parents have been cleared. Speaking in Pietermaritzburg yesterday the minister said there was no need to fear Covid-19.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa said there was also no need for South Africa to implement travel bans related to countries affected by Covid-19 at this stage because there were only a few cases so far. He was speaking to journalists in Pretoria over the weekend and said it was too early to call for a ban. The government would keep watching how the disease spread. Europe’s most hard-hit nation Italy is restricting movement and activity for a quarter of its population in the region around the financial capital of Milan, but several cities including New York indicated that they want to avoid mass quarantines. As of Sunday, about half of the world’s countries have reported cases of Covid-19 according to the World Health Organisation. There is extensive information on the virus on the Biznews website.
  • Rating’s agency Moody’s has cut South Africa’s 2020 growth forecast from 0.7% to 0.4% saying the country’s growth prospect is at risk because of the coronavirus outbreak. The global spread of the virus, Moody’s said in a global research report is resulting in supply and demand shocks. It expected the shocks to materially slow economic activity particularly in the first half of the year and it has revised the 2020 baseline growth for all G-20 economies. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange closed on Friday with its biggest one day loss of the week following markets worldwide. The All-Share Index dropped 1.65% and the Rand traded at R15.67 against the US dollar. The Rand reached the lowest level against the British sterling in the past year, R20.45 needed to buy one pound. The gold price rose by more than one percent on Friday and was on track for the biggest gain since October 2011 as investors bought into the safe haven against the effect of the coronavirus, Palladium prices fell by 3.1% last week.
  • The mining sector has put in place an action plan to deal with possible cases of the coronavirus as it acknowledged that there could be a high degree of exposure in the industry. The Minerals Council has adopted a nine-point action plan which includes employee education and health promotion, pro-active influenza vaccination, readiness to isolate employees should the need arise and ensuring access to masks, sanitisers and testing kits. The council said the virus could delay exports of materials to significantly-affected markets and demand for some commodities could be affected but said that the price of gold would likely support the industry. It is also ready to mobilise large-scale medical facilities if it was necessary.
  • Eskom has not implemented loadshedding since the 22nd of February but has warned that it may have to implement blackouts ‘on a short notice.’ The power utility has warned the likelihood of loadshedding remained high as it had an increase in unplanned breakdowns and had identified further ‘system risks’. The system was currently constrained, unpredictable and vulnerable. They were replenishing emergency reserves in order to be in a better position to meet demand for the coming week, but there still remained a high likelihood that loadshedding could be implemented should there be further unexpected changes in the generation system performance.