Inside Covid-19: Pressure growing to re-open economy as 17% GDP contraction looms; Thys du Toit’s plea – Ep 30

In episode 30 of Inside Covid-19, granular research by Business4SA concludes the economy could contract by a staggering 17% this year; we hear from money manager Thys du Toit whose plea to the president to open up the country went viral; a UK professor explains why our species has become so obsessed with fake news in this time of coronavirus; and growing evidence that in Africa, virus-instigated lockdowns do more harm than good. – Alec Hogg

In the Covid-19 headlines today:

  • Business for South Africa said there is an urgent need to accelerate the restarting of the economy. Board member Martin Kingston says hardship, hunger and desperation could threaten the rule of law and thus threaten SA’s capacity to respond to the impact of the pandemic. He says there is every reason to believe a safe return to work will be successfully achieved provided people and businesses adhere to well communicated protocols. More on that story coming up in interviews with B4SA’s health workgroup lead Stavros Nicolau, and Thys du Toit, the money manager whose impassioned video that pleas for a re-opening of the economy has gone viral.

  • A number of long-standing players in South Africa’s media industry are down for the count. Last week Associated Media Publishing, which produces Cosmopolitan, House & Leisure and Good Housekeeping magazines, announced its immediate closure. Today Habitat magazine, which has produced 276 issues since its creation 37 years ago, said it is also closing down. In the same vein, media group Caxton announced it would be closing its magazine division as a direct consequence of the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the ability of magazine publishers to trade normally with a high level of advertising cancellations. Caxton said titles affected are Bona, Country Life, Essentials, Food & Home, Garden & Home, People, Rooi Rose, Vrouekeur, Woman & Home and Your Family.
  • Another company has joined the hall of Covid-19 profiteering shame and today agreed to pay a fine of R5.9m relating to excessive pricing of face masks. A statement today from the Competition Tribunal says Matus, a supplier of tools and personal protective gear, admitted it increased its profit margins for dust face masks during February and March. Apart from the fine, Matus has also agreed to make a contribution to the Solidarity Fund for Covid-19 and immediately reduce the profit margin on the masks.
  • The US’s Food and Drug Administration has cleared for emergency use an antibody test from Swiss pharma giant Roche. The company says its test has proven 100% correct in detecting antibodies in the bloodstream and 99.8% accurate when determining whether antibodies were not present. It is the 10th commercially available test to be approved, but by far the best with most of the others criticised for low levels of accuracy. Governments around the world believe a reliable test will enable them to gauge how much of the population is still susceptible to the virus, and thus take informed decisions on lifting and applying lockdowns. Some have even considered issuing immunity passports to allow those with antibodies to return to work.