On Thursday the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the national lockdown was to be extended for another two weeks. This comes after the National Coronavirus Command Council presented evidence that the average daily increase of new cases had gone from 42% to 4%. Measures taken to closing the country’s borders and prohibiting gatherings as well as the change in behaviour, have contributed greatly to the slowing down of the spread of the virus.
The president thanked South Africans for their commitment and patience through the first two weeks of the lockdown, and asked that we endure another two weeks which will be packed with strategies to cushion the pandemic from having a devastating effect on the poor. In addition, 1,000 water tankers have been provided for the delivery of water.
Several homeless people have been accommodated in 154 shelters and provision has been made for food parcels. The government is now also offering Spaza Shops around the country financial support to help keep them afloat.
President Ramaphosa said the Unemployment Insurance Fund which had set aside R40 billion to help employees who will be unable to work, as part of the effort to prevent jobs losses as a result of the lockdown has, to date, paid out R356 million.
The Industrial Development Corporation has set aside R3 billion for the procurement of essential medical supplies. It has already approved R130 million in funding and expects to approve a further R400 million in the coming week to companies who applied for funding under this special facility.
The Small Enterprise Finance Agency has approved the postponement of loan repayments for a period of 6 months. The small business debt relief and business growth facilities are currently adjudicating applications for assistance. There is a total of R500 million available in financial support. Government has reprioritized R1.2 billion to provide relief to smallholder farmers and to contribute to the security of food supply.
In addition to these expenditure measures, the Reserve Bank has also lowered interest rates and has taken measures to inject liquidity into the economy.
The newly established Solidarity Fund has so far raised around R2.2 billion, which has already allocated around R1 billion to buy sterile gloves, face shields, surgical masks, test kits and ventilators.
It will also allocate funds for humanitarian relief to vulnerable households, in addition to the R400 million set aside by government for Social Relief of Distress grants.
The president emphasized that the crisis needs swift action.
“Additional extraordinary measures will need to be put in place in the coming weeks and months to absorb the sudden loss of income to both businesses and individuals. We are in a situation that demands swift action and exceptional methods, a situation that demands innovation and the mobilization of every resource that we have” said President Ramaphosa.
Cabinet will be developing a comprehensive package of urgent economic measures to respond both to the immediate crisis and to the severe economic challenges that the country will have to confront in the months ahead.
In support of this effort, the President, Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers will each take a one-third cut in their salaries for the next three months.
This portion of their salaries will be donated to the Solidarity Fund. President Ramaphosa called on other public office bearers and executives of large companies to make a similar gesture and to further increase the reach of this national effort.
There are now over 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide and over 90,000 people across the world have died from this disease. South Africa’s tally currently stands at 1,934 confirmed cases with 18 deaths. The president asked we contribute to the Solidarity Fund in any way we can. As this is a difficult time for all of us.