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South Africa reports millions of job losses

Nomsa Maseko

BBC News, Johannesburg

Members of the South African Police Service interact with staffers after inspecting products during their visit at Soshanguve Shopping Centre

South Africa’s economy lost 2.2 million jobs in the second quarter of 2020, according to the government's statistics agency.

But because of a statistical quirk the country’s official unemployment rate has fallen to 23% - a substantial decrease from 30.1% seen in the first quarter.

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) defines an unemployed person as someone who is actively looking for a job – and because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, most people who lost their jobs during that time were unable to look for a new one.

A clearer picture of the unemployment rate comes from Stats SA's figure for the number of people who were not economically active between March and June – the strictest period of the lockdown.

That figure increased by 5.3 million people to 20.5 million.

South Africa’s lockdown – one of the strictest in the world – led to the largest economic contraction ever in the second quarter.

White House 'pressure officials' to relax school reopening rules

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump is up for re-election in November

The New York Times reports that the White House pressured the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to play down the risk of sending children back to school amid the pandemic.

Documents seen by the newspaper reveal how the administration tried to force public health officials to support US President Donald Trump’s push to reopen schools and the economy.

Republican President Trump faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden in November’s presidential election in November.

The New York Times story comes just the day after NBC News overheard the CDC director Dr Robert Redfield attacking one of Mr Trump’s coronavirus task force members, Dr Scott Atlas – who has publicly called for the country to reopen, in line with the president.

“Everything he says is false,” Dr Redfield reportedly said. The broadcaster said he later acknowledged he had been speaking about Dr Atlas.

Acting 'fast' saved Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian Airlines plane after its landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport in Abuja  on 7 September
The airline maximised on freight operations due to restrictions on air travel

Quick adaptation has enabled Ethiopian Airlines weather through coronavirus restrictions and "saved the airline", its CEO Tewolde Gebremariam has told the AFP news agency.

Despite losing $1bn (?780m) and 850 of its employees contracting coronavirus, the company reported a profit of $44m (?34m) for the first half of the year, and has not defaulted on its loan repayments, the CEO said.

The company has also avoided laying off full-time employees or requested a restructuring of its debts, Mr Tewolde said.

The airline, which is the largest in Africa, responded to a 90% drop in international passenger traffic by repurposing 45 passenger jets in order to build out its cargo fleet.

It stripped off the seats from its passenger planes to make way for cargo. This worked for the airline, as demand for air freight surged during the period.

"I would say that those actions have saved the airline...we were very quick, very fast, flexible and agile to move our forces, resources and everything to cargo," Mr Tewolde said.