US commits another R250m to aid SA's fight against coronavirus

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The US government has bolstered its support to help South Africa fight the coronavirus pandemic with an additional R250 million. This brings the total value of US commitments to South Africa to R410 million.

According to a statement from the US embassy on Thursday, the funding will be used to support the Centres for Disease Control and Preventions operations, as well as that of labs and surveillance. It will also be used for infection and prevention control, border health and vaccine preparedness and special studies related to Covid-19 so SA can improve its responses.

"This latest injection (R250 million) of assistance is in addition to the approximately $8.4 million (nearly R160 million) in health assistance to support South Africa's Covid-19 response already committed through the US Agency for International Development," the embassy said. "It is an honour for the United States to partner in South Africa's campaign to fight the Covid-19," it said.

The announcement comes more than a week after US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw funding to the World Health Organisation, saying the WHO had "failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable". The US contribution accounts for 15%, about $400 million of the WHO's budget.

Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday announced an historic R500 billion support package for South Africa, to provide social relief and to respond to the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis. Of this amount, R130 billion will be reprioritised within the national budget, most likely from projects which are not urgent at this stage.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is expected to elaborate on the details of how the reallocations will be made to capacitate the department of health in responding to the outbreak when he tables the adjusted budget.

Ramaphosa said R200 billion would be provided in the form of a loan guarantee scheme, in partnership with the major banks, the National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank. The remaining R170 billion would be sourced from Covid-19 support loans from international financial institutions, global partners and local sources such as the UIF.

National Treasury has had engagements with the New Development Bank, the World Bank, IMF and the African Development Bank.

Ramaphosa on Thursday will address the nation on steps that will be taken in lifting restrictions on economic activity.

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