President Ramaphosa extends COVID-19 lockdown by 2 more weeks

The president's address comes from the Union Buildings in Pretoria ahead of the Easter long weekend .

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the nation on 9 April 2020. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has extended the lockdown by two more weeks beyond the initial 21 days.

His address on Thursday comes from the Union Buildings in Pretoria ahead of the Easter long weekend.

The number of cases in the country is currently at 1,934 with 18 deaths; the lockdown is aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

“After careful consideration of the available evidence, the national command coronavirus council has decided to extend the nationwide lockdown by a further two weeks beyond the initial 21 days.”

He said this meant the lockdown rules currently in place would remain until the end of April.

“If we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease. We risk reversing the gains we have made in the last few weeks and rendering meaningless the great sacrifices that have been made.”

Ramaphosa said measures such as closure of boarders and the ban of large gatherings had been working so far.

"I have to ask you to make even greater sacrifices so that our country may survive this crisis and so that tens of thousands of lives may be saved."

The president thanked South Africans for abiding by the rules of the lockdown and their patience during this trying time.

"Faced with such daunting challenges, you the people of South Africa, have responded with remarkable patience and courage. You have respected the lockdown."

Ramaphosa also said he would be taking a one third pay cut, along with the deputy president, ministers and deputy ministers for the next three months.

He said the money would go towards the Solidarity Fund, which has so far raised R2.2 billion.

"It 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."

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He said government had come up with a three-part strategy, with the aim of stopping the spread of the virus.

  • An intensified public health response to slow down and reduce infections.

  • A comprehensive package of economic support measures to assist businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic.

  • A programme of increased social support to protect poor and vulnerable households.

"To ensure that our strategies are effectively coordinated and to ensure they are informed by comprehensive, real-time data, we have established the COVID-19 Information Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research," the president said.

With regard to the second part of the strategy, government will provide support to businesses in distress, to workers facing loss of income, to the self-employed and to informal businesses.

"The Unemployment Insurance Fund has 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. To date, it has paid out R356 million."

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa said the Industrial Development Corporation had 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."

He has thanked those employers who have continued to pay their workers' salaries during this lockdown, saying that money would go a long way for households.

"Government has reprioritised 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."

Government has also taken into consideration the impact this extension would have on communities that have water issues and the economical impact on spaza shops.

"We have also expanded the provision of food parcels and we’ve provided spaza shops with financial support. To date, government has delivered over 11,000 water storage tanks to communities in need across the country, and many of these have been installed."