S.Africa Economy Shrinks After Riots, COVID-19 Measures

A queue of cars is seen at the Maseru Bridge border post between Lesotho and South Africa on March 24, 2020. Molise Molise / AFP.

 

South Africa’s economy shrank for the first time in a year in the third quarter as the country was hit by riots and tighter Covid restrictions, official statistics showed Tuesday.

After four consecutive quarters of growth, the economy contracted by 1.5 percent between July and September compared to the previous three-month period, the Stats SA agency said.

The contraction eroded “some of the economic gains the country has made since the severe impact of Covid-19 in the second quarter of 2020,” Stats SA said in a statement.

The economy underperformed “under the twin pressures of tighter Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and a spate of civil disorder in July, as well as several other headwinds”, the agency said.

A spree of arson and looting rocked parts of South Africa in July following the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma for contempt.

The country, worst-hit by Covid in Africa also tightened coronavirus restrictions that month to tackle a third wave of infections.

Trade, catering and accommodation industries fell by 5.5 per cent.

Manufacturing shrank by 4.2 per cent, while agricultural activity plunged by 13.6 percent, its biggest drop in five years.

Africa’s most industrialised country was in recession when the pandemic hit.

A hard lockdown imposed in March last year brought many industries to a standstill, and rolling restrictions have continued to stifle business.

The economy contracted by a record 6.4 per cent in 2020, but rebounded faster than expected during the first half of this year.

It was predicted to grow by 5.1 per cent in 2021 last month.

Muslims Celebrate Eid al-Fitr Amid COVID-19 Measures

Muslims offer Eid el-Fitri prayers which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan fasting at the National Mosque, in Abuja, on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV

 

Muslims around the country on Thursday throng prayer grounds to celebrate Eid al-Fitr – one of the holiest occasions in the Islamic calendar – amid coronavirus restrictions.

New restrictions were announced on Monday, days before the Sallah celebration to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Federal Government reintroduced the restrictions across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

READ ALSO: Buhari Asks Christians, Muslims To Jointly Pray Against Kidnapping, Banditry

Meanwhile, Muslim leaders across the region have called for prayers against insecurity confronting the country.

Prayers were observed at the nation’s capital, Abuja, and also at the Presidential Villa with the President joined by service chiefs, his family members, and other top government officials.

President Muhammadu Buhari offers Eid el-Fitri prayers with other top government officials at the presidential villa in Abuja on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

 

In a message, the Chief Imam of the State House mosque, Sheik Abdulwaheed Sulaiman notes that the insecurity challenge in Nigeria is a test from God and is optimistic that unity, peace, and the fear of God will prevail in the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari in his Eid-el-Fitr message to Nigerians asked both Christians and Muslims to unite and jointly pray against tragic incidents of kidnapping and banditry.

Muslims offer Eid el-Fitri prayers which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan fasting at the National Mosque, in Abuja, on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV

 

He also called for practices that promote brotherhood and forgiveness noting that unity and solidarity among all citizens is imperative especially at this time when Nigeria is faced with multiple challenges.

“On this blessed occasion, I wish that the Eid festival brings with it peace, safety, security, brotherhood, and love amongst all.

“Unity and solidarity among all citizens, Muslims, and Christians are imperative especially at a time when our country is faced with multiple challenges which are surmountable only when we come together as one.

Muslims offer Eid el-Fitri prayers which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan fasting at the National Mosque, in Abuja, on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV

 

“It is important that we remember how we share, through our faiths, common bonds that should serve to unite us and not allow ourselves to succumb to those who seek to divide us, using our two great religions, for their own selfish advantages,” the President said.

Muslims were also advised to observe all COVID-19 prevention measures and celebrate responsibly during the holidays.

Merkel, Party Chief At Odds Over COVID-19 Measures

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a press statement at the Chancellery in Berlin on March 25, 2021, following a European Union (EU) summit via video conference with EU leaders. (Photo by Michael Kappeler / POOL / AFP)

 

The leader of Angela Merkel’s CDU party on Monday pushed back against the chancellor’s criticism that some of Germany’s 16 states are straying from agreed Covid-19 measures, insisting they are taking the pandemic seriously.

In an interview with the ARD broadcaster on Sunday night, Merkel had called several states out for failing to impose “emergency brake” rules requiring renewed restrictions for regions with high incidence rates.

She also directly criticised the chief of her CDU party Armin Laschet, who is also state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, for “choosing an implementation that carries too much room for manoeuvre”.

But Laschet on Monday hit back against the criticism, saying it “doesn’t help us if the federal government and states are pushing responsibility to each other”.

READ ALSO: Pandemic Blamed For Lack Of VAR In World Cup Qualifiers After Ronaldo Fury

He insisted that all 16 state premiers are “taking this very seriously”.

“Everyone wants the number of infections to go down and everyone has taken the appropriate measures for their state, which are very different,” he said.

He also defended Tobias Hans, state premier of Saarland, who had been heavily criticised over his plans to end a shutdown as early as April 6.

– Plummeting support –

At a tense meeting last week, Merkel and the regional leaders had agreed to stick to national rules including strict shutdowns and curfews in areas with more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days.

But under Germany’s federal system, each state can ultimately decide its own rules and some have failed to impose curfews and gone ahead with reopening measures, despite fierce criticism.

The small southwestern state of Saarland has said it plans to end its shutdown completely and open leisure, sports and entertainment facilities after Easter to those who can provide a negative test.

Asked if Laschet’s actions in North Rhine-Westphalia went against what was agreed, Merkel said: “There are several states that have taken a very broad interpretation, and that does not fill me with joy.”

The rapid spread of the British coronavirus variant has led to an exponential growth in new cases in Germany in recent weeks, just as the country was taking first steps towards reopening.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency reported 9,872 new cases in 24 hours on Monday and a national incidence rate of 134.4 per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

The spiralling infection rates and a sluggish vaccine rollout have led to plummeting support for Merkel’s CDU-CSU conservative alliance just six months ahead of a general election.

A poll for the Bild daily on Sunday placed the conservatives on just 25 percent, their lowest level for a year and well below the record low result of 32.9 percent they secured at the 2017 elections.

AFP

Merkel Calls Fresh Crisis Meeting Over COVID-19 Measures

In this file photo taken on August 31, 2015 German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a press conference in Berlin stating “We can do this!” on the controversial decision to open Germany’s doors to tens of thousands of migrants. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP)

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel has summoned the leaders of Germany’s 16 states to an unexpected crisis meeting on Wednesday amid a backlash over pandemic measures, the chief of her CDU party said.

“The chancellor has invited the (regional leaders) at short notice for 11 o’clock today and I think that we will talk very critically there about what happened two days ago,” Armin Laschet told a regional parliament meeting in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

A government spokesman confirmed to AFP that a videoconference had been called on Wednesday morning “as a follow-up to Monday’s consultations”.

Merkel and the regional leaders have faced fierce criticism after agreeing to prolong shutdown measures and tighten them over Easter during marathon talks on Monday night.

As well as extending existing measures including keeping cultural, leisure and sporting facilities shut through to April 18, Merkel and the state premiers ordered a tougher shutdown between April 1 and 5.

Almost all shops will be closed during the five days, and religious services will be moved online over Easter. Only grocers will be allowed to open on Saturday April 3.

READ ALSO: Second French Minister Hospitalised With COVID-19

Media reports ahead of a Merkel press conference at 1130 GMT said that policy would now be scrapped.

Der Spiegel news magazine called the measures a “scandal”, claiming the government had “completely the wrong priorities” and should instead focus on improving its vaccination campaign and test strategy.

Daniel Guenther, the state premier of Schleswig-Holstein, told the DPA news agency Wednesday’s meeting would focus on “implementation problems” around the measures agreed over Easter.

The new restrictions come as infection numbers continue to rise in Germany, with 15,813 new cases reported in 24 hours on Wednesday by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency.

Patience is running thin in the country over a sluggish vaccine rollout, a delayed start to mass rapid testing and higher infection numbers despite months of shutdowns, with support for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party at its lowest level for a year.

AFP