South Africa Extends Lockdown By Two Weeks To Tackle Virus

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa extended a national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus by two weeks until the end of April as infections continue to mount.

“There is sufficient evidence to show the lockdown is indeed working,” with the rate of new infections slowing, Ramaphosa said Thursday in a televised address. “Unless we take these difficult measures now, unless we hold this course a little longer, the coronavirus pandemic will engulf, and ultimately consume, our country.”

The rand erased some of its gains after the announcement of the lockdown extension. It traded 0.1% stronger at 18.1049 by 9:12 p.m. in Johannesburg, having gained as much as 1.9% earlier in the day.

The government initially imposed a 21-day lockdown on March 27. It’s being enforced by the police and military and only allows people to leave their homes to buy food, collect welfare grants and seek medical care — unless they provide essential services.

Confirmed Cases

South Africa has confirmed 1,934 Covid-19 infections — the most in Africa — since the first one was detected on March 5. There were 89 new infections reported on Thursday, with cases confirmed in all nine provinces.

“The struggle against the coronavirus is far from over,” Ramaphosa said. “If we end the lockdown too soon and too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable upsurge in the disease.”

The state has instituted a number of measures to cushion businesses and employees from the effects of the lockdown, and will announce others in due course, Ramaphosa said. He urged companies not to resort to force majeure and stop paying their suppliers and rent, because the practice would have a domino effect on all other businesses.

The president also announced that he and his ministers and deputy ministers will donate a third of their salaries for three months to a fund established to mitigate the effect of the disease, and called on company executives and government officials to make a similar gesture.

Other highlights:The Unemployment Insurance Fund set aside 40 billion rand ($2.2 billion) to help those unable to work, with 336 million rand having been disbursed to date.The state-owned Industrial Development Corp. is providing 3 billion rand for the procurement of essential medical supplies, with 130 million rand already allocated.The Small Enterprise Finance Agency will postpone loan repayments by creditors for six months.The government allocated 1.2 billion rand to provide relief for small-scale farmers and ensure security of food supply.More than 11,000 water-storage tanks have been delivered to communities to help improve sanitation.

– Bloomberg

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