Covid-19 cases nearing 20k, Groote Schuur crisis, actuaries slam SA virus data; interest rate cut; Tsogo Sun

By Jackie Cameron

  • There has been a big jump in Covid-19 cases in South Africa, says the Ministry of Health, which reported a total number of 19,137 cases and the death toll from the virus reaching 369 on Thursday. And, GroundUp news agency reports that the number of Covid-19 patients at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town is doubling every five days, and the hospital will not be able to cope unless something is done. The hospital is currently running seven wards with over 120 Covid-19 patients, and four intensive care units with 19 Covid-19 patients. Some doctors and nurses are apparently not showing up for work or reluctant to work with Covid-19 patients, it says. In a message to doctors, a senior hospital manager reportedly pleaded with medical professionals to make themselves available. GroundUp published the message, which included the following: “My reason for writing to you tonight is to make a plea for your assistance and to request you to dig deep in asking yourselves why you became doctors in the first place. Each and every one of us now need to be truthful to our oath and to our profession. Some staff have volunteered to work in these wards; some have been told to work without any choice and then there are many who have not come to the fore as yet.” For more on that, see the article on the GroudUp website.
  • A South African group established to look at the human and economic costs of Covid-19 in South Africa has slammed Covid-19 forecasts and asks whether low- and middle-income countries really are at significant risk. Called PANDA, which is short for Pandemics Data & Analysis, this group is a collective of leading actuaries, economists, mathematicians, medical professionals, lawyers and businesspeople who say they are working to bring more data and analytics to the decision-making table. In a fascinating article, which you can find on Biznews.com, PANDA experts say they are “left wondering why anybody in their right minds would be talking up a story that involves anything more than 10,000 deaths for South Africa”. And, for the latest insights on Covid-19, download the Inside Covid-19 podcast with Alec Hogg, who shares the latest clear thinking on the pandemic.
  • The South African Reserve Bank cut its benchmark interest rate for the fourth time in four months in a bid to support an economy forecast to slump deeper into recession as a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus halted most activity, reports Bloomberg. The monetary policy committee voted to lower the repurchase rate to 3.75% from 4.25%, Governor Lesetja Kganyago said Thursday.
  • Tsogo Sun Hotels, one of many tourism companies to be hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus, said on Thursday it could face a fall of up to 10% in full-year core earnings. Its share price has plunged by about 65% this year in response to Covid-19 shutdowns. Reuters reports that Tsogo Sun Hotels, one of South Africa’s biggest hotel groups, with brands such as Southern Sun and Garden Court, said the first nine months of trading saw demand by corporate and leisure groups as well as the transient traveller showing little signs of recovery as consumers and firms rein in spending in a struggling economy. Subsequent international travel restrictions and a total ban on inter-regional travel to curb the spread of the coronavirus had an impact on the group’s fourth-quarter trading, with international demand shrinking as early as February, says the news agency. All Tsogo Sun hotels in South Africa, the rest of Africa and the Seychelles have been closed, with the exception of those designated as quarantine facilities or as accommodation for essential service workers and persons awaiting repatriation, it notes. The company, which also operates casinos, said, according to Reuters, that lenders to Tsogo Sun Hotels and its subsidiary Hospitality Property Fund have approved the waiver of September covenants and that it has temporarily laid off employees and has had to reduce pay for all levels including executive management and board members. The group, adds Reuters, is also seeking rent relief from landlords during the lockdown and for subsequent low demand periods, and has negotiated reduced or extended payment terms with major suppliers.
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