Inside Covid-19: Allan Gray on market outlook; BoJo in ICU; Will BCG protect SA, lockdown be extended? – Ep 14

In episode 14 of the Inside Covid-19 podcast, Allan Gray’s view on the share market rebound – and the way ahead after the crash; Ron Whelan applies his mind to the major issues of the moment from protection by the BCG vaccine to whether SA’s lockdown will continue beyond April 16th; we find out how a South African businesswoman stranded in Bali is running her business by cellphone; and bad news for the economy and property prices, as a 4.5% contraction is in prospect. – Alec Hogg

In the Covid-19 headlines today:

  • Although worldwide mortalities from Covid-19 are still on the rise and now approach 80,000, there is now compelling evidence the two worst affected countries, which between them account for just under half of global 76,500 deaths, are past the worst. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows new infections in Italy peaked at 6,557 on March 21st They have steadily declined since falling to around half that level. Italy’s first infection was recorded on January 31, indicating a timeline of 50 days to the peak. A similar trend is evident in Spain where new infections hit a record high of 9,630 on March 25, 53 days after the first infection was reported (Feb 1). Spain’s new infections are in a clear downward trend and also now roughly half of the peak. There is a similar curve for Iran, which was also hard hit with more than 3,700 deaths to date, where new infections are down by a third from the high recorded on March 31. There is also a clear declining trend in Germany, but the curve has yet to flatten in the other hardest hit nations – US, UK, Netherlands, Belgium and France. In New York, the epicentre of the US’s crisis, 731 deaths were reported on Tuesday, its highest yet. But in reporting the news Governor Andrew Cuomo emphasised that mortalities are a lagging indicator, adding that as the rate of hospitalisations are falling, he believes the spread of the virus has now plateaued in the state.
  • South Africa’s Covid-19 infections continue to surprise on the downside, with reported new cases rising by 63 to 1,749 Tuesday, continuing the modest 4% a day growth rate. The country reported one more death, bringing the total to 13. South Africa’s mortality rate is 0.02 people per 100,000 population, consistent with other countries where the TB vaccination BCG has been universally administered, including India at 0.01/100 000 and Japan at 0.07 which were among the first countries outside of China to record infections. By contrast, the mortality rate in Italy, France, Netherlands and Belgium, which never applied BCG vaccinations, are in double digits – in other words between 500 and 2,000 times higher. China, where Covid-19 originated, has a morality rate of 0.24/100 000 compared with 27 and 28 in Spain and Italy. As we reported earlier this week, research by NYIT’s Dr Gonzalo Otazu provides compelling evidence that BCG vaccinations provide a shield against Covid-19 infection and mortality rates. More on that in our interview with Discovery Health’s Chief Operating Officer Ron Whelan.
  • World leaders have rallied to wish British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a speedy recovery after he was admitted to an intensive care unit in London. Johnson is not on a ventilator, but is receiving oxygen. German Chancellor Angela Merkel shared a photo of the two, wishing Johnson much strength and a speedy recovery and said she hoped the could leave hospital soon and the French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his full support for Boris Johnson, his family and the British people. President Donald Trump said he asked two leading companies to contact officials in London to help Johnson’s treatment.
  • Resistance to Covid-19 inspired lockdowns is growing. Many videos of experts decrying the measure as being worse that the virus itself, are circulating online. Today, the doctor-turned-investor Michael Burry, who foresaw the Global Financial Crisis and thus starred in the hit movie The Big Short, has added his voice to the critics. In a series of tweets, Burry says Government-direct shutdowns are unnecessary and will needlessly cause the US’s deepest ever economic contraction. He also said controversial treatments like the malaria drug chloroquine should be made more widely available. He says that instead of lockdowns, Covid-19 infections can be managed by common sense measures like hand-washing, broader testing and sheltering the elderly and vulnerable.
  • South Africans are hopeful about the statistics around BCG vaccinations and signs that the infection curve is flattening in Europe, but also worried about the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.
  • Share price around the world have rebounded strongly this week as there is certainty about the impact of Covid-19 grows. As stock markets are a leading indicator, the performance of the JSE, which has risen by a quarter since its trough, is telling us South Africans might be able to start looking ahead to better days.
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