Health minister Zweli Mkhize has announced that South Africa has recorded 3,300 Covid-19 cases, an increase of 142 cases over the past 24-hours.

Mkhize also stated that four new deaths attributed to Covid-19 were recorded, bringing total deaths to 58.

The number of recoveries has increased to 1,055 with a total of 121,510 patients tested.

Gauteng has 1,170 reported infections, with seven deaths reported in the province, while the Western Cape has 940 cases, with 17 reported deaths. KwaZulu-Natal has 639 infections, and 23 deaths.

Globally, coronavirus cases surged past 2.4 million cases, with more than 166,000 deaths reported, and around 636,700 recoveries.

Boris Johnson is resisting pressure to ease the UK’s coronavirus lockdown too soon, fearing a second wave of the pandemic could hit the country, Bloomberg reported.

The government is facing calls to lift restrictions on movement that have brought the UK economy to a near halt and triggered a surge in furloughs and welfare applications. On April 16, the country extended the lockdown for three weeks amid signs the outbreak is near or at its peak.

“The big concern is a second peak,” Johnson’s spokesman James Slack said on a call with reporters on Monday. “If you move too quickly, the virus could begin to spread exponentially again.”

Fitch Ratings meanwhile, downgraded Hong Kong as an issuer of long-term, foreign currency debt saying that the city is facing a “second major shock” from the coronavirus after prolonged social unrest last year, Bloomberg reported.

UIF will pay for annual leave days taken

The minister of employment and labour in South Africa has issued amendments to the directive dealing with claims to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) as a result of Covid-19, notes Johan Botes, partner and head of the Employment & Compensation Practice, Baker McKenzie Johannesburg.

The directive was first published on 26 March 2020 and updated on 8 April 2020. The latest change allows employers to set off an amount received from the UIF in respect of a new Covid-19 annual leave benefit, from amounts paid to employees for annual leave taken during the lockdown.

The lockdown resulted in businesses being forced to close and employees having to stay at home. Employers were able to invoke their right to withhold remuneration for the period where employees could not tender service, said Baker McKenzie.

Many employers, however, placed employees on annual leave in an effort to ensure they continued to receive salaries during the lockdown. Placing staff on annual leave during this period softened the blow for employees, albeit at the expense of their annual leave allotment, it said.

The latest amendment to the directive means that employers will be able to credit their staff for annual leave days taken during the lockdown, and set-off the amounts received from the UIF against salary paid to staff placed on annual leave, noted Botes.

According to the directive, employers must credit staff for the annual leave taken “…with the proportionate entitlement to paid annual leave in future”.

In a further amendment to the directive, the minister urged employers to calculate the Covid-19 UIF benefits staff will receive from UIF and pay this to staff, with a view to offsetting or reimbursing it once employers receive payment from the UIF.

This appears to be done in tacit acknowledgment of the strain placed on the administration of claims by the UIF, due to the deluge of new claims submitted, said Botes.

“This additional claim will allow some employees reprieve in that their annual leave should be credited as their employers will receive payment of this new benefit from the UIF.

“However, the annual leave claim – on the face of it – is calculated using the same formulas, threshold amounts and maximum cap as other COVID-19 claims.”

In practice, this means that almost all staff, save for those earning the national minimum wage, will receive an annual leave Covid-19 benefit that is significantly less than their full (actual) remuneration received from their employers for the annual leave taken during the lockdown.

Employers that have paid staff in full for annual leave taken during the lockdown will therefore receive only a portion of their staff’s salaries from the UIF as part of this new annual leave benefit, while employees are entitled to be credited for annual leave actually taken.

“Thus, many employers would have paid more to staff in respect of annual leave than it will recover from the UIF as the Covid-19 annual leave benefit,” said Botes.

How employers will deal with this in practice is unclear and is not addressed in the regulations, he said.

It remains to be seen whether employers will recover the additional amount paid to staff from future remuneration (subject to section 34 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act) or whether the answer lies in interpreting “proportionate entitlement to paid annual leave in future” to credit annual leave days pro rated with the actual funds received.

Read: Important change to South Africa’s coronavirus relief funding and annual leave