Article by Lindiwe Karosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed South Africans this evening and has announced an extension of 14 days to the nationwide lockdown. Exactly two weeks ago, South Africa went into lockdown that was expected to end on 16 April 2020, but will now end at the end of April.
The President had a meeting with Premiers of all provinces to discuss their efforts in curbing the spread of the pandemic in their respective provinces, and had another discussion with all the leaders of the political parties represented in Parliament. The latter has shown that in a time like this, it is absolutely necessary that leaders from different parties stand in solidarity to combat a common enemy.
The global situation surrounding the pandemic has shown the government that the swift decision to lock the country down was in fact right and just. In the past two weeks, global cases jumped from 340 000 to 1.5 million cases, with an increase of 90 000 deaths. However, in South Africa, the increase of cases observed from 27 March 2020 to date is from 1170 to 1934. Before lockdown, the average daily increase was 42%, but has gone down to 4% during lockdown.
The present global challenge is that of obtaining Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) for frontline workers. Various stakeholders have come together to attempt to manufacture what the country is in dire need of.
The National Ventilator Project is an initiative that has been established to begin the manufacturing of non-invasive ventilators locally. Other projects include the manufacturing of PPE such as face visors, sanitizers and pharmaceuticals.
The President has acknowledged that the measures taken by the country to close borders, prohibit large gatherings and effecting change in our general behaviour has slowed the spread. Although the spread has slowed, screening and testing must be expanded and will be implemented in all provinces, especially areas considered as vulnerable.
The Solidarity Fund has thus far raised R2.2 billion and will be used in implementing efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Strategy Moving Forward:
The President presented a 3-part strategy that will be implemented to provide national relief.
● The government will implement an intensified public health response to slow and reduce infections.
- A comprehensive package of economic support for businesses and individuals.
- Increased social support to poor and vulnerable households.
Public Health Response
Government has established a Covid-19 Information Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that will track screenings, testings and hospitalisations. The centre will also identify infection hotspots. The government will also work with mobile companies to assist in the tracking of positive patients and their contacts.
The UIF has set aside R40 billion to assist employees who will be unable to work, to prevent job losses as a result of the lockdown. As at today, it has already paid-out R365 million.
President Ramaphosa has called on large businesses to pay the suppliers and rental commitments to prevent a collapsing ripple effect in the business chain.
The Industrial Development Corporation has set R3 billion for the procurement of essential medical supplies. Of this amount, R130 million in funding has already been approved and will approve another R400 million for companies who have applied for relief under this facility.
The Small Enterprise Finance Agency has postponed loan repayments for 6 months.
Government will set R1.2 billion aside for small farmers and to assist in ensuring food security. The Reserve Bank has also lowered interest rates.
Catering to the poor & vulnerable
The government is working tirelessly to provide food and water to impoverished communities.Over 11 000 water storage tanks have been delivered across the country, and 1 000 water tankers have been provided for delivery of water.
Communities in need are being given food parcels, and spaza shops are being provided with financial support and homeless people have been sheltered in 154 facilities.
Government will allocate additional funds to the R400 million that has already been set aside for Social Relief of Distress grants.
What to expect next?
As we enter this new phase, the country can expect further announcements of new measures to cushion the economic and socio economic impacts Covid-19 will cause.
The President asked citizens to endure the extension keeping in mind that it is a means to an end. It will not be easy but this pandemic can be conquered. He urges all citizens to continue exercising social distancing, and to practise social distancing.