Covid-19 deaths up in WC, KZN; Remdesivir gives world hope; Treasury warns economy could shrink by 16%; SAA

By Jackie Cameron

  • As South Africa’s lockdown restrictions were eased slightly at the weekend, many were out enjoying early morning exercise. But public health officials have urged vigilance on social distancing. At least 123 people had died of Covid-19 in South Africa by Saturday, with the highest number of deaths reported in the Western Cape. In a statement on Saturday, the Department of Health said 56 people have died in the province, with KwaZulu-Natal recording the second-highest number of deaths, at 34. At least 13 people have died in the Eastern Cape and 12 in Gauteng. Some provinces have not reported any deaths, including the Northern Cape, North West and Mpumalanga.
  • A drug used to fight the ebola virus has received emergency approval to treat Covid-19 patients in the US. Gilead Science’s antiviral drug remdesivir reduces recovery time in hospital, according to an early study. Bloomberg says the Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency-use authorisation, President Donald Trump said on Friday, a step by which the agency can allow products to be used without full data on their safety and efficacy. Gilead shares closed down 4.8% on Friday at $79.95 in New York. The company has faced questions from investors about how it plans to make money on the drug, but its stock is still up 23% this year, at a time when the rest of the market has cratered. For more on the fight against Covid-19, listen to Inside Covid-19 with Alec Hogg, who shares the latest insights and analysis on the pandemic that has brought much of the world to a standstill.
  • South Africa’s Covid-19 containment measures could lead to 7m job losses by the end of this year and the economy could contract by more than 16% in 2020, Treasury estimates showed. Bloomberg  quotes Dondo Mogajane, the National Treasury’s director-general, as saying: “We have to move quickly to get the economy back to normal, but also take into account that we have to contain the impact of the virus,” said. The lockdown has brought all economic activity to a standstill with manufacturing, construction, trade, catering and accommodation, as well as financial and business services will be the worst-affected sectors.
  • South Africa is seeking to create a new thriving national airline out of the ashes of SAA, which is technically insolvent and on the brink of being placed into liquidation. An ideal replacement for South African Airways would have both public and private owners, maintain the country’s trade connections and make a profit, the Department of Public Enterprises said in a statement on Friday. The plan has the backing of SAA’s near 5,000-strong workforce, the ministry said.