The Eyewitness News Breakfast Brief

Eyewitness News previews a selection of the news that you will find on the website today.

Picture: Engin Akyurt/Pixabay

On EWN.co.za this morning, our daily coronavirus infections continue climbing, with 4,373 tests coming back positive over the past 24-hour reporting cycle, with Gauteng accounting for 72% of them. Sadly, another 21 fatalities were also recorded over the same time frame, with our national death toll now at 89,843. On the vaccine front, 25.6 million jabs have been administered here on home soil but many people still need to go and get their second Pfizer shots.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says it would have been ideal if African countries did not react to the discovery of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus "like our former colonisers". But Rwanda, Mauritius, Seychells and Egypt are among countries that imposed travel restrictions against southern Africans in the wake of the news of this new variant, which is yet to be fully understood. Ramaphosa was speaking to reporters on his trip to West Africa.

Aspen Pharmacare says licencing rights to produce a COVID-19 vaccine under its own label is a huge boost for the African continent. It will be called Aspenovax and will be distributed to countries on the African continent. Aspen has finalised initial terms with Johnson & Johnson that will see the company produce coronavirus vaccines using a drug substance supplied by J&J in the near future.

With the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections expected in the next two weeks, the CEOs of private healthcare providers have weighed in on where the country stands at the moment and what is being done to provide vaccines. The Health Department has been getting reading for the fourth wave and the private health sector has joined in.

There have been mixed views over mandatory vaccinations in South Africa since President Cyril Ramaphosa's address to the nation. The President said on Sunday that government had set up a task team that would undertake broad consultations on making vaccinations mandatory for specific activities and locations. The country is seeing an increase in cases as well as the emergence of a new variant, Omicron, which was first detected in Botswana and subsequently identified by South African scientists.

Vaccine mandates have come under the spotlight in parliament as political parties express their views on the possibility of a vaccine policy. Deputy health minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has been quizzed by members of the National Council of Provinces on the introduction of a vaccine mandate. He was responding to questions in the NCOP as part of the social and health cluster.

South African's are buckling under the ever-rising cost of living, with rising fuel prices sucking our bank accounts dry. Consumers will now be forking our an additional 81 cents per litre for petrol, taking the price to over R20 a litre. The price of diesel and illuminating paraffin has also been hiked. The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the increase in fuel prices reflects the state of the country's economy. The body says the effects of more expensive liquid fuels including gas will be felt on everything the country grows, make, export, import, and on all South Africans whether or not they have motor vehicles.

There's no evidence that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom’s board and management failed to investigate complaints against the utility’s chief operating officer, Jan Oberholzer. That’s the finding of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Announcing the outcome of three investigations yesterday, Mkhwebane says her office will not be pursuing the matter any further.

The Public Prorector has also cleared former North West premier, Supra Mahumapelo, of violating the executive code of ethics over the delivery of a R1.5 million herd of Bonsmara cattle to former President Jacob Zuma. Mkhwebane investigated after a complaint by former EFF MP Godrich Gardee in 2018, after the Sunday Times reported the cattle was meant for emerging farmers but that Mahumapelo had made a gift of them to Zuma, allegedly using public funds.

The inquiry into the anarchy that broke out in KZN and Gauteng in July has heard that public order police in KwaZulu-Natal were otherwise occupied when the violence started. This was revealed by provincial Police Commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi yesterday. He was in the witness seat in Umhlanga testifying at the commission. He says the unit was already attending to other situations when the crime wave began.

The police have appealed to anyone with information about a kidnapping syndicate in Ekurhuleni to come forward following the arrest of five suspects. Religious leader Tahseen Mateen Kardame was kidnapped outside his father's hardware franchise in Benoni on the 12th of last month. A multi-disciplinary integrated task team located Kardame in Katlehong yesterday. The five suspects include a well-known cash-in-transit robber who is currently out on bail and an Ekurhuleni municipal traffic department employee.

Health experts say regaining ground lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the immediate focus in the fight against HIV/Aids. Countries around the globe are commemorating World Aids Day, while some at the same time are also battling rising coronavirus infection numbers.

The South African Bureau of Standards is calling on everyone in the country to engage in safe sexual practices by only using condoms that it's certified. It's World Aids Day and the SABS says it serves as an important reminder that HIV/Aids is still prevalent and precautions are necessary. According to Stats SA, 8.2 million people were living with HIV within our borders this year. The SABS points out that it has a dedicated condom testing facility that ensures all batches meet strict safety conditions. It's calling on everyone to make sure the "SABS approved" mark appears on the condoms they plan to use.

In international news, the Omicron coronavirus variant was present in Europe before the first cases were reported in South Africa, new data from the Netherlands showed Tuesday, as Latin America reported its first two cases in Brazil.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he would decide on a weekly basis whether to extend US travel bans on southern Africa, depending on what happens with the worrying new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The WHO said Tuesday that those not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 who are also vulnerable to the disease, including over-60s, should put off travel to areas with community transmission.

VIDEO

SA's unemployment rate increased to 34.9% in the third quarter of 2021 - South Africa's official unemployment rate increased to 34.9% in the third quarter of 2021, according to data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey released by Statistics South Africa on 30 November 2021.