Inside Covid-19 – Business confidence plunge; pandemic changes banking habits; UFS virus tracking breakthrough. Ep 46

In Episode 46 of Inside Covid-19, South Africa’s business confidence index falls to an almost impossibly low 5 points of a potential 100; we explore the change in banking behaviour with spending plummeting and savings rising; a University of Free State breakthrough in measuring viral loads of sewerage that will aid management of outbreaks by location; also, we hear about what will be needed for SA to attract foreign direct investment post the pandemic; and highlights of today’s Biznews webinar with political economy specialists Moeletsi Mbeki and Jakkie Cilliers. – Alec Hogg

In the Covid-19 headlines today:

  • South Africa recorded another 82 coronavirus mortalities on Tuesday, equalling Monday’s new record and taking total deaths to 1,162. The country’s mortality to confirmed case proportion, at 2.2%, is well below the global average 5.6%. Put differently, South Africa ranks 30th on total deaths, but 22nd on total cases. But the country’s recent rising mortality rate has put it into the world’s top ten for the first time with Tuesday’s deaths higher than former hotspots of Italy and Iran and more than double Africa’s next hardest hit nation, Egypt, which reported 35 deaths yesterday. Globally, Brazil remains on top of the list of daily mortalities with almost 1,200 on Tuesday. Other countries in yesterday’s top ten were the USA, Mexico, the UK, India, Russia, Peru, Pakistan, France and South Africa.
  • The Solidarity Fund has provided a R250m grant to the National Health Laboratory Service, which will enable a further 1.1m coronavirus tests to be conducted. The fund has also given R88m to the SA Medical Research Council and a consortium of several universities to scale up the testing in their virology labs, adding capacity of up to 12,000 additional tests a day. The Fund has also given a R20m grant to the Dischem and Global Health Innovations lab to enable free testing at walk-in facilities for those not on medical aid who could otherwise not afford the test. This is expected to add a further 33,000 tests to the national effort.
  • US global financial services group JP Morgan is to donate R21m to assist with immediate relief for vulnerable, hard hit South Africans. Two thirds of this will be used to assist small business owners such as food retailers with the balance as emergency relief to families facing hunger. The donation is part of JP Morgan’s $11m grant across EMEA to provide access to capital and technical assistance for small businesses affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
  • South Africa’s Business Confidence dropped to an unprecedented low during the second quarter, the RMB/BER Index recording just 5 points out of the possible 100, the only time in its 45 years of measurement that it is in single digits. This surpasses the previous low of 12 points set in the depths of the 1977 and 1985 economic recessions. The index, measured quarterly, was already on a sharply declining trend before Covid-19 struck, falling from 26 in the final quarter of last year to 18 in the first three months of 2020. Insights coming up in this episode from RMB chief economist Ettienne le Roux.
  • Although airports reopened from the beginning of the month, business travellers will find the experience rather different to what they previously experienced. To reduce the high touch points, passengers have to scan their own boarding passes, and while going through security scans they must place all of their loose items in their hand luggage with only laptops allowed separately and they are required to re-enter the queue should they trigger an alarm on the metal detector. Travellers are also required to arrive at airports at least two hours in advance of their flights; will undergo temperature screening and required to wear masks at all times.
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