Covid-19 vaccine SA trials; ample Aspen Covid drugs; SAA

By Jackie Cameron

  • Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials in South Africa and on the continent begin this week. The vaccine is already being evaluated in a large clinical trial in the UK where more than 4,000 participants have already been enrolled. This was the announcement from the University of the Witwatersrand. The Covid-19 vaccine is already being evaluated in a large clinical trial in the UK involving more than 4,000 participants. The 2,000 volunteers include some people living with HIV.
  • South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to a 17-year high in the first quarter, even before the full impact was felt of the Covid-19 lockdown. The jobless rate increased to 30.1% from 29.1% in the three months through December, Statistics South Africa said, reports Reuters.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa says the government will galvanise R2.3bn in infrastructure investment to create about 1.8m jobs over the next decade. The government unveiled a plan to galvanise R2.3 trillion rand ($133 billion) in new infrastructure investment over the next decade, with a view to creating more than 1.8 million jobs.  and revive an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Currently 276 housing, energy, transport, water and other projects are under consideration, and funding has already been secured for 55 of them, according to a copy of the plan, says Bloomberg.
  • The South African government said on Tuesday it had received unsolicited proposals from private sector funders, private equity investors and potential partners for a new national airline based on SAA. The Department of Public Enterprises said in a statement: “Government is intent on pursuing credible proposals for investment and strategic partnerships with the private sector, as well as equity participation for employees.”
  • South African pharmaceutical maker Aspen could provide 10 million Dexamethasone tablets within a month, CEO Stephen Saad. “Aspen has looked at the short-term needs and can provide 10 million tablets in the next 3 to 4 weeks. We would look to ramp up further should there be a need for additional product,” Saad told Reuters, without saying how much of the drug the company was currently producing. Results from a trial showed dexamethasone reduced death rates by around a third compared with a placebo in severely ill hospitalised Covid-19 patients, scientists at University of Oxford said last week, calling the discovery a “major breakthrough”. For more on the Covid-19 vaccine and other developments on the Covid-19 pandemic, listen to the BizNews Inside Covid-19 with Alec Hogg, who shares insights and news on Covid-19 from SA and around the globe.