Flash Briefing: SA seals deal for Pfizer Covid-19 shots; Old Mutual backs LNG; China; Suez Canal

  • South Africa has finalised a deal for the supply of 20 million shots of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech with deliveries starting mid-April. The deal had been delayed by Pfizer’s insistence that South Africa’s health and finance ministers personally sign the pact, which includes indemnity clauses to protect the company, according to correspondence between the ministers. Pfizer will deliver the vaccines every quarter, starting this month according to Anban Pillay, the deputy director-general in the department.
  • Old Mutual African Infrastructure Investment Managers is backing natural gas as the fuel needed to help the country transition from coal power generation to the use of wind and solar. The firm says it will consider funding companies that compete for the right to produce 3,000 megawatts of electricity from gas in an upcoming bid round planned by the government, said Vuyo Ntoi, co-managing director of the R29bn fund. South Africa’s biggest coal consumers, Eskom and Sasol plan to rely on gas to cut their greenhouse emissions while maintaining their output of electricity and fuel. Old Mutual’s stance is sure to rile the country’s renewable-energy lobby, which argues that the country should take advantage of solar and wind technologies and not invest in gas infrastructure that may be rendered obsolete in the near future.
  • The European Commission has told governments the Covid vaccine rollout could hit a key target earlier than expected, under new projections that hinge on people accepting AstraZeneca’s shot. The European Union’s executive arm says most member states will have sufficient vaccine supplies to immunise the majority of people by the end of June. But uncertainty over Astra’s vaccine may cloud the outlook. The European Medicines Agency may indicate a potential link between the drugmaker’s shots and rare cases of blood clots, Messaggero daily reported, quoting Marco Cavalieri, EMA’s chair of the vaccine evaluation team. The UK’s medicines regulator is also being urged to change its guidance on the use of the vaccine in younger people, according to Channel 4 News.
  • Ship traffic through Egypt’s Suez Canal was briefly halted again today. This just two weeks after a giant container ship wedged itself across the waterway and blocked it, delaying hundreds of cargo ships. The oil tanker Rumford needed tug boat assistance but was soon operational and the northbound convoy was moving normally again, according to Bloomberg.
  • The Chinese have introduced their own digital Yuan, in what The Wall Street Journal describes as ‘a re-imagination of money that could shake a pillar of American power’. China’s digital Yuan will be controlled and issued by the country’s central bank. A digital version of the established currency has benefits that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are lacking because they exist outside the traditional financial system and aren’t legal tender like cash issued by governments, writes The Wall Street Journal. Subscribe to BizNews Premium for bundled access to The Wall Street Journal and more on this story.

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