South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, has reiterated the dire impact COVID-19 could have on the economy, which could cause businesses to close and many to lose their jobs.
Addressing the nation when he announced a 21-day lockdown starting on Thursday 26 March, the President stated that a solidarity fund is geared at support for those whose lives have been disrupted and to combat the virus.
“Anyone can start contributing to the fund at www.solidarityfund.co.za,” he said.
Ramaphosa also announced economic plans to cushion South Africa against the impact of the virus, including a safety net for people in the informal sector whose businesses will suffer because of the lockdown has also been developed, and more details will be announced.
Further, “to alleviate congestion at payment points, old-age pensions and disability grants will be available for collection from March 30 and 31 2020, while other categories of grants will be available for collection from April 1 2020”, Ramaphosa said.
“ATMs, retail point of sale devices, post offices and cash pay points will remain open,” the President stated. “A proposal for a special dispensation for companies in distress because of COVID-19 has been put forward.”
The Head of State added that this will include wage payments for employees through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme to help companies pay employees during this period and avoid retrenchment.
Employees who fall ill due to exposure in the workplace will be paid through the Compensation Fund, Ramaphosa said.
He said government would provide tax subsidies of up to R500 a month for the next four months to private sector employees earning less than R6 500. This would assist over four million employees, he said.
Government’s inter-ministerial committee is set to hold a press briefing later today, where it’s expected that several ministers in Ramaphosa’s Cabinet will further explain the implications and details of the lockdown.
Many questions have been raised since the President’s announcement, including whether the security forces are adequately prepared, how movement will be limited and whether or not people can still run or walk as a form of exercise during the lockdown.