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Risk of Second Wave of COVID-19 in South Africa as Cases Rise

South Africa faces a high risk of resurging coronavirus infections that may lead to a review by the council deciding on lockdowns after new cases rose by 42% in Western Cape province in the last two weeks, the health minister said recently.

Zweli Mkhize said in a statement that the increase in infections and deaths “will inform the recommendations that the Health Department makes to the National Coronavirus Council”, the body that determines the different levels of lockdown restrictions.

“According to our resurgence plan, we define this significant spike in new cases in the Western Cape as a resurgence,” said Mkhize, adding that nationally infections in the last two weeks had risen 10.7%, which was also a “concerning trend”.

Mkhize said the cause of the spike in the Western Cape was a “super-spreader event” at a bar in southern Cape Town. The popular tourist city was originally the epicenter of South Africa’s first wave of infections.

Africa’s most advanced economy, which also has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the continent at more than 700,000 infections, eased lockdown restrictions to their lowest level in September as the rate of new cases fell.

It also opened its borders to international travelers at the beginning of October after a six-month ban, in what was one of the world’s strictest lockdowns that included restrictions on movement, economic activities and the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

The lockdown cost the country more than 2 million jobs in the second quarter, while the economy shrunk by its most on record.

To track worldwide cases via the Bing COVID map, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

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More Travelers Allowed to Visit South Africa: List of High-risk Countries Revised

There’s an average of 335 investors per day applying to visit South Africa, ‘sending a strong message that South Africa remains an attractive investment destination’.

The South African government recently issued a revised list of what it deems “high-risk countries”, based on a risk categorization model, in light of the current pandemic.  The list is compiled by ministers of health, home affairs and tourism, and was done in a way that “strikes a balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods”. 

No changes were made to travel in Africa. The only people from high-risk countries who are able to visit South Africa at the moment are those travelling for business, those that hold critical skills visas, investors, and those from sports, arts, culture and science international missions. 

Travelers from select European countries who usually visit South Africa in the summer to escape cold winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, many of whom own property, will also be allowed to visit South Africa.  However, this is subject to a three-month visitation period or longer, and Covid-19 protocols. 

Those seeking permission to travel to South Africa must email their requests, and provide a copy of their passport and temporary residence visa, proof of business activities to be undertaken, proof of travel itinerary and proof of address or accommodation. 

The email address that has been in operation has in the last two weeks received 4,701 applications. So far, 3,113 have been approved.  This amounts to an average of 335 investors per day applying to visit South Africa, “sending a strong message that South Africa remains an attractive investment destination”.  As such, capacity to manage the email account has been increased. 

Here is the latest list of high-risk countries still not allowed to travel to South Africa for leisure travel: 

  • Argentina
  • Germany
  • Peru
  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Philippines
  • Belgium
  • Indonesia
  • Russia
  • Brazil
  • Iran
  • Spain
  • Canada
  • Iraq
  • United Kingdom
  • Chile
  • Italy
  • USA
  • Colombia
  • Mexico
  • France
  • Netherlands

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

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President Ramaphosa Urges South Africans to Use the COVID-19 Contact Tracing App. Here’s How it Works

On Wednesday, president Cyril Ramaphosa urged South Africans to use government’s new coronavirus contact-tracing app, which was launched earlier this month.

“I want to make a call this evening to everyone who has a smartphone in South Africa to download the COVID Alert mobile app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store,” Ramaphosa said during his address to the nation. The app has been zero-rated by mobile networks, so you can download it without any data costs.”

Using Bluetooth technology, the app will alert any user if they have been in close contact with any other user who has tested positive for coronavirus in the past 14 days.
“Contact tracing  is an important preventative measure to protect yourself and your close family and friends,” Ramaphosa said, as he announced details about South Africa’s progress to Level 1 on midnight, Sunday.

This will include the opening up of borders to foreign tourists from countries that don’t have high infection rates. These travellers will be asked to install the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app on arrival, Ramaphosa said.

The COVID Alert SA app is available for Android devices on the Google Play store and on the Apple App Store for iPhones, with the South African National Department of Health as publisher.

The small app, 2.1MB on Android phones and 5MB on iOS, promises to anonymously keep track of your contact with everyone else using it over a two-week period, the upper end of the incubation period for Sars-CoV-2. If a user discloses they have tested positive for the coronavirus, everyone in that contact list is notified.

The app uses the exposure notification framework created by Google and Apple for use during the pandemic. “By downloading and using the COVID Alert SA app, you become a part of a powerful digital network of app users who choose to work together for the benefit of everyone in the app community while all enjoying complete privacy and anonymity,” the department of health promises.

“App users understand their exposure to Covid-19 and help others to do the same. We can all work together to curb the spread of Covid-19 and, ultimately, to save lives.” The app is free, and uses only a small amount of data every day to check in with a central server. But it requires the power-hungry Bluetooth radio to be turned on, which makes for some battery drain.

COVID Alert SA does not record your name or location. Instead, every device is assigned a unique code. Using Bluetooth, it shares that code with other phones running the app when the come into range, and records the signal strength (a rough proxy for how close another person is) and date for any such contact.

The range of Bluetooth transmission can vary wildly depending on a range of factors, but is around 10 metres as a rule of thumb. Anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus must type in a PIN number the department of health sends by SMS as part of the notification system for Covid-19 tests.

That triggers alerts other people who were in close proximity, without disclosing the identity of the infected person or any other details. In such a case “[a]pp users are guided as to what to do next to optimise their wellbeing and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus to others,” says the department of health.

The usefulness of the app will depend on how many people install it, whether they keep their Bluetooth radios turned on, and how quickly they report positive test results.

To track the virus’ stats, visit the Bing live COVID map here.

Let’s all work together to flatten the curve of COVID in South Africa.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South Africa Has Opened Up Visa-free Travel to These 11 Countries

Home Affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has announced visa-free travel for 11 countries in an effort to boost tourism to the country.

In a media briefing on Sunday (4 October), Motsoaledi said that the visa-free status of citizens of some countries and territories was temporarily suspended at the start of the lockdown period.

“In line with the commitment of Government to take urgent steps to address the economic and tourism stagnation brought about by the outbreak of Covid-19, visa-free status of citizens from a number of countries and territories has been reinstated.”

However, the minister said that visa-free status does not alter the current Covid-19 regulations, including with regards to the bans in place for leisure travelers from high-risk countries, as determined by the South African Government.

The countries include (bolded are high risk):

  • South Korea;
  • Spain;
  • Italy;
  • Germany;
  • Hong Kong;
  • Singapore;
  • USA;
  • UK;
  • France;
  • Portugal;
  • Iran.

Motsoaledi said he has instructed officials to communicate this decision to the aviation industry, embassies and other stakeholders as a matter of urgency.

“The port managers have been instructed to adhere to the SADC protocol and guidelines regulating the movement of essential goods under Covid-19 regulations.

“The guidelines regulating truck drivers travelling across the border will continue to apply as has been the case for the past seven months,” he said.

The minister said that immigration officers will be required to assess the movement and place of origin of the traveller and not the country of origin of the airline concerned.

“Transit travellers through South Africa by air will be allowed to connect to their destinations, subject to them complying with applicable health protocols but need not produce the 72 hours negative certificate.”

High-risk countries 

Motsoaledi said that any person from a country listed as having a high Covid-19 infection and transmission rate, who wish to undertake business travel into South Africa, may, in writing, apply to the Department of Home Affairs and demonstrate reasons for their request to enter the Republic for business purposes during the period of the national state of disaster.

Such applications must be directed to email Covid19BusinessTravel@dha.gov.za and supported by:

  • A copy of passport and/or temporary residence visa;
  • Proof of business activities to be undertaken in the republic;
  • Proof of travel itinerary; and
  • proof of address or accommodation in the republic.

The list of these high-risk countries will be updated fortnightly, said Motsoaledi.

“Immigration officers have been instructed to apply the requirements with a measure of flexibility in order to allow applications for business travel to be lodged at the ports of entry if and when necessary and await the outcome before entry into the republic is allowed,” he said,

All other categories of travellers from medium and low-risk countries are required to produce a certificate of negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure, Motsoaledi said.

“Any person who fails to submit the certificate will be required to quarantine at his or her own cost.”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

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Phase 3 of Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Starts in South Africa

Medical companies Pfizer and BioNTech have announced the enrolment of South Africa for phase 3 of their Covid-19 vaccine trial.

The recently expanded study will include approximately 44,000 global participants, allowing a further increase in trial population diversity, and include people with chronic, stable HIV (human immunodeficiency viruses), Hepatitis C, or Hepatitis B infection.

The expanded study will also provide additional safety and efficacy data.

Pfizer said that the selection of South Africa as one of the global hosts of the study was based on the local scientific expertise and capabilities, the epidemiology of the disease, and South Africa’s prior experience in running clinical trials.

The study will include approximately 800 participants and will be conducted in four sites across Gauteng, Limpopo and the Western Cape. The trials received regulatory approval from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) on 22 September 2020.

Dr Essack Mitha will be the study’s national principal investigator. Mitha has more than 16 years’ experience in research and development (clinical trials) in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.

“We are proud and excited to be given the opportunity to take part in this global research effort. South African patients will play a critical role in the fight against Covid-19.

“We are confident that the South African sites will contribute high-quality data to this ground-breaking study, and that medical science will prevail in this pandemic,” said Dr Mitha.

Having secured regulatory approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to proceed with the phase 3 clinical trials of the vaccine trial, Pfizer and BioNtech have commenced and have already recruited more than 35,000 participants globally.

“As Pfizer, we are proud to be bringing this important study to the country, and to the African Continent, to add to the growing knowledge of this virus so we can find a lasting and sustainable solution to end this pandemic,” said Dr Bha Ndungane-Tlakula, Pfizer’s medical director for South Africa.

Increasing Covid-19 numbers

The Gauteng Department of Health meanwhile, is concerned about the 6% increase in the number of Covid-19 active cases since the country moved to level 1 of the lockdown.

South Africa moved to level 1 of the lockdown on 21 September 2020.

Gauteng remains the epicentre of the virus with 219,373 cases to date followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 118,889, the Western Cape 110,541 and Eastern Cape 89,076.

“The rise in infections has been attributed to among other factors to non-adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions by some members of the public,” the provincial department said.

The areas of concerns include Johannesburg’s Inner City, Soweto, Sedibeng and Tshwane.

“It is important that we emphasise to the public that the fight against COVID-19 is far from over. We want to caution communities that we need to continue adhering to non-pharmaceutical interventions,” said Gauteng acting MEC of Health, Jacob Mamabolo.

The MEC called on everyone to play their part by wearing facemasks, social distancing, sanitising and washing hands.

According to the provincial department, 1,200 people are currently hospitalised in public and private health facilities.

Meanwhile, South Africa recorded 903 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours bringing the cumulative number of detected infections to 672,572.

In addition, 81 more people succumbed to the respiratory disease pushing the death toll to 16,667.

Of the latest deaths, 28 are from Gauteng, 11 from KwaZulu-Natal, 10 from the Northern Cape, eight from the Eastern Cape and the North West, six from the Western Cape, and five from Limpopo and Free State.

“We extend our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the healthcare workers that treated the deceased patients,” said health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Meanwhile, recoveries now stand at 605,520 which translates to 90%.

The data is based on the 4 164 491 tests conducted of which 12,011 were performed since the last report.

Globally, there have been 33,249 563 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while the death toll has now surpassed 1 million, the World Health Organisation reported.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].