Coronavirus morning update: School testing plan, Eskom's lockdown financial woes, and SANDF complaints



Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 3 158.

Another two deaths were recorded, bringing the total to 54.

So far, 114 711 tests have been conducted.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Phasing in a return of pupils to classes based on which grade they are in will allow schools to become useful points for health workers to conduct screening and testing for Covid-19, while pupils could also be used as proxies to check the prevalence of the virus within their families and homes. 

These are some of the benefits that government believes this process could have, a leaked social impact plan for the phasing out of the lockdown in some strategic social sector areas - which News24 has seen - has revealed. 

The 37-page Powerpoint slide show, which also shows plans for the lockdown and beyond for various sectors, states that the phasing in of the education sector is consistent with international experiences in countries like China, South Korea and Japan. 

By conducting tests and screenings in schools, the target of people being screened and tested before winter could be exceeded, which could help flatten the curve even faster, the plan states. 

The plan argues that this would also assist in getting the school system prepared to deal with coronavirus as the "new normal". 

READ MORE | Leaked plan: Govt to test thousands of kids for Covid-19 when schools reopen

When President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered a 21-day nationwide lockdown in late March in an address to the nation, South Africans noted the end date on their calendars: midnight on Thursday, April 16.

Many thought that on the following day - Friday, April 17 - South Africans would again be allowed to move around freely, go to a restaurant, drive to work, or stop in at the corner café to pick up a packet of cigarettes. Businesses would reopen and factories would start up. But on Friday the country was still in lockdown after government ordered South Africans to stay home for another two weeks in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

When Ramaphosa first announced the lockdown, no confirmed deaths due to the virus had been reported. Now the death toll stands at 52, and the latest statistics on infections have triggered speculation that the lockdown may, in some form, may extend well into May with dire consequences for business. Reports that the economy will reopen in stages only added to the anxiety, especially among small business owners.   

SA's economy is already expected to contract sharply this year, with National Treasury projecting a deep recession, followed by a modest upswing in 2021. The Reserve Bank thinks a contraction of 6.1% is likely, the IMF -5.8% and Moody's -2.5%.

READ MORE | Covid-19 | Govt's economic rescue plan a race against time

Eskom expects to bleed up to R2.5 billion a month in revenue because of reduced demand in electricity by intensive users, and it's possible that the decline may continue after the lockdown period ends.

The struggling power producer, whose generation capacity has come under severe pressure in recent years, has emerged as one of the many casualties of the Covid-19 lockdown. 

"Given that the lockdown will be in place for a month, Eskom expects revenue losses in the region of R2 billion to R2.5 billion a month," said Eskom’s Acting Treasurer Mandla Maleka.

The five-week lockdown, which began on March 26, is expected to be lifted at the of April. Thereafter the economy is expected to be opened in stages. 

Eskom is anticipating a possible decline in economic activity post the lockdown period, which may "result in lower payment levels for electricity".

READ MORE | Lockdown to burn a hole in Eskom finance

The South African Military Ombud Office says it has received 28 complaints to date since the start of the national lockdown. 

At least 15 of the complaints are from the public alleging that South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members were using excessive force and physical abuse during their lockdown patrols, while others are from serving members themselves concerning their conditions of service. 

The ombudsman released these numbers in the wake of the recent death of an Alexandra man who was allegedly assaulted by members of  SANDF.

Some of the ombudsman's mandate is to deal with complaints and grievances brought by current and former members of the force as well as complaints from members of the public about the conduct of SANDF members. 

READ MORE | SA military ombud office has received 28 complaints since lockdown

Woolworths has reiterated that it will no longer sell hot food, like rotisserie chicken and pies, despite their lawyers telling them that the government was acting outside of lockdown regulations. 

However, the retailer will continue to sell frozen, cooked prepared meals.

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel told a media briefing last week that the selling of hot food by supermarkets was outlawed by lockdown regulations. 

In response, Woolworths briefed its attorneys Webber Wentzel to provide a legal opinion on the matter, that could be used by store managers if they are confronted by law enforcement agents. 

READ MORE | Woolworths to close hot food counters, despite legal opinion


Cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Late on Sunday night, positive cases worldwide were close to 2.4 million, while deaths were close to 165 000.

The United States had more than 755 000 cases, and more than 40 000 deaths - the most in the world.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Spain registered a sharp drop in its daily death toll from the new coronavirus on Sunday, with the number falling to 410 from 565.

The total number of fatalities in Spain, the third hardest-hit country in the world after the US and Italy, has reached 20 453, the health ministry said.

"It's a number that gives us hope," said health ministry emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon of the daily death toll, at its lowest in four weeks.

"It's the first time we are under 500 dead since the daily tolls began to climb."

READ MORE | Spain sees sharp drop in daily virus death toll

Italians debated on Sunday their first cautious steps out of a coronavirus lockdown that has left an estimated half of the working population seeking government support.

The Mediterranean country has been filled with rumours and speculation about when people will finally be allowed to walk the streets freely for the first time since early March.

The balmy weather is not helping government efforts to keep everyone inside in the face of a disease that has officially killed 23 227 in Italy - second only to the United States.

The number of daily fines for illegal outdoor activity is rising and police are setting up barricades along roads leading to the beaches on the western outskirts of Rome.

READ MORE | Fearful but impatient, Italy edges toward end of lockdown

US President Donald Trump warned of "consequences" for Beijing if China were found to have deliberately allowed the novel coronavirus to spread.

"It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn't, and the whole world is suffering because of it," Trump said at the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing on Saturday.

"If they were knowingly responsible, certainly," he said. "If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences."

The president did not specify what the consequences may be.

READ MORE | Trump said China may have started the coronavirus deliberately

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections 

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

READ MORE: Coronavirus 101 

Image credit: Getty Images
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