President Cyril Ramaphosa tonight declares a nationwide wide lockdown from March 26 to April 16 with few exceptions to combat coronavirus.
He applauds and salutes South Africans and all relevant stakeholders for cooperating responsibly in combating coronavirus. He advocates basic changes in human behaviour and hygiene: “stop shaking hands, cover your nose when sneezing, do everything within your means to avoid contacts with people”.shops and businesses will be closed except for essential services – basic goods and medical supplies will open….
He acknowledged that cases of coronavirus is now at 402 in South Africa. “Swift action is required is to prevent human catastrophe. Health facilities will be overstretched and many will not be able to access health services”
Grocers, pharmacies, banks and filling stations will be allowed to remain open, while the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and other essential services can continue operating. President Cyril Ramaphosa said tonight in a televised address to the nation that the army will help the police enforce the lockdown.
Every person should adhere strictly to regulations and measures put in place. The next few days are crucial. Within a few weeks, infections may reach hundreds of thousands.
There were 128 new infections on Monday, with cases confirmed in all nine provinces. Gauteng, the economic hub, which has 207 cases, and the Western Cape, which has 100, have been hardest hit. There have been no fatalities so far.
South Africans coming into the country from high risks countries will be quarantined for 14days.
“Our country finds itself by a prospect of very deep economic recession. We shall marshall every effort to fight…and mitigate this challenge”
The health system was already strained before the pandemic hit, and the government fears it will buckle under the weight of a flood of new infections.
The virus has already dealt a body blow to the struggling economy and the new restrictions will exacerbate the fallout, but the government has said it has to prioritize the safety of the country’s citizens.
Interventions at this crucial time in South Africa priortises the vulnerable – the poor, the weak and those whose lives are disrupted.
- Following consultation with social partners, we have set up a Solidarity Fund, which South African businesses, organisations and individuals, and members of the international community, can contribute to.
- The Fund will focus efforts to combat the spread of the virus, help us to track the spread, care for those who are ill and support those whose lives are disrupted.
- The Fund will complement what we are doing in the public sector.
- I am pleased to announce that this Fund will be chaired by Ms Gloria Serobe and the deputy Chairperson is Mr Adrian Enthoven.
- The Fund has a website – www.solidarityfund.co.za – and you can begin to deposit monies into the account tonight.
- The Fund will be administered by a reputable team of people, drawn from financial institutions, accounting firms and government.
To get things moving, Government is providing seed capital of R150 million and the private sector has already pledged to support this fund with financial contributions in the coming period.
Government has had discussions with manufacturers and distributors of basic necessities, who have indicated that there will be a continuous supply of these goods. There is therefore no need for stockpiling of any items.
- A safety net is being developed to support persons in the informal sector, where most businesses will suffer as a result of this shutdown. More details will be announced as soon as we have completed the work of assistance measures that will be put in place.
- To alleviate congestion at payment points, old age pensions and disability grants will be available for collection from 30 and 31 March 2020, while other categories of grants will be available for collection from 01 April 2020.
All channels for access will remain open, including ATMs, retail point of sale devices, Post Offices and cash pay points.
Support people whose livelihoods will be affected:
- We are in consultation on a proposal for a special dispensation for companies that are in distress because of COVID-19. Through this proposal employees will receive wage payment through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, which will enable companies to pay employees directly during this period and avoid retrenchment.
- Any employee who falls ill through exposure at their workplace will be paid through the Compensation Fund.
- Commercial banks have been exempted from provisions of the Competition Act to enable them to develop common approaches to debt relief and other necessary measures.
Many large companies that are currently closed have accepted their responsibility to pay workers affected. We call on larger businesses in particular to take care of their workers during this period.
- In the event that it becomes necessary, we will utilise the reserves within the UIF system to extend support to those workers in SMEs and other vulnerable firms who are faced with loss of income and whose companies are unable to provide support. Details of these will be made available within the next few days.
Assistance for businesses that may be in distress
- Using the tax system, we will provide a tax subsidy of up to R500 per month for the next four months for those private sector employees earning below R6,500 under the Employment Tax Incentive. This will help over 4 million workers.
- The South African Revenue Service will also work towards accelerating the payment of employment tax incentive reimbursements from twice a year to monthly to get cash into the hands of compliant employers as soon as possible.
- Tax compliant businesses with a turnover of less than R50 million will be allowed to delay 20% of their pay-as-you-earn liabilities over the next four months and a portion of their provisional corporate income tax payments without penalties or interest over the next six months. This intervention is expected to assist over 75 000 small and medium-term enterprises.
- We are exploring the temporary reduction of employer and employee contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and employer contributions to the Skill Development Fund.
- The Department of Small Business Development has made over R500 million available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in distress through a simplified application process.
- The Industrial Development Corporation has put a package together with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition of more than R3 billion for industrial funding to address the situation of vulnerable firms and to fast-track financing for companies critical to our efforts to fight the virus and its economic impact.
- The Department of Tourism has made an additional R200 million available to assist SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector who are under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions.
more info to follow.