South Africa coronavirus: Lockdown deployment, WHO lauds response strategy

South Africa has become a COVID-19 model for the continent in many ways since it confirmed its index case on 5th March, 2020. From the area of testing through to record number of recoveries, South Africa has been praised for pro-activeness in combating the virus.

The economic intervention measures rolled out by President Cyril Ramaphosa has also been classed as one of the most comprehensive across the continent. South Africa was one of the earliest to roll out such measures.

Challenges have been recorded in the area of enforcing the three-week lockdown which was augmented by two weeks. Spike in cases at certain points and incidents of shoplifting and increase in domestic violence cases have all been headaches Pretoria continues to deal with.

That President Ramaphosa is also the current Chairperson of the African Union, AU; means he has the delicate task of juggling national tasks withe the continental as Africa seeks global support to combat the pandemic.

Key statistics as at April 23, data from National Institute For Communicable Diseases, NICD

  • The total number of confirmed cases = 3,635
  • The total number of tests so far = 133, 774
  • Daily tests = Between 5,000 to 6,000+
  • Total death toll = 65
  • Total recoveries = 1,055 – according to John Hopkins University
  • Most impacted provinces = Guateng (1,224), Western Cape (1,079), Kwa Zulu-Natal (758)

Mboweni gives details on new tax measures

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has provided more details on the second set of measures that are aimed at assisting individuals and businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. President Ramaphosa earlier this week announced the $26 billion measure in an address.

“There is a critical need for government interventions to assist with job retention and support businesses that may be experiencing significant distress,” the National Treasury said in a statement on Thursday.

Last month, Mboweni announced the initial measures to assist tax compliant businesses with cash flow assistance and provide an incentive for businesses to retain their lower-income employees. The measures will help businesses focus on staying afloat and paying their employees and suppliers.

The measures are expected to provide around R70 billion in support, either through reductions in taxes otherwise payable or through deferrals of tax payments for tax compliant businesses.

The eight core interventions included:

  • Skills development levy holiday.
  • Three-month deferral for filing and first payment of carbon tax liabilities.
  • A deferral for the payment of excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.
  • Postponing the implementation of some Budget 2020 measures.
  • An increase in the expanded employment tax incentive amount.
  • An increase in the proportion of tax to be deferred and in the gross income threshold for automatic tax deferrals.
  • Case-by-case application to SARS for waiving of penalties.

Three other tax measures were announced with the aim to assist individual taxpayers and to provide financial backing from the fiscus to donate to the Solidarity Fund. They were: Increasing the deduction available for donations to the Solidarity Fund, adjusting pay-as-you-earn for donations made through the employer and expanding access to living annuity funds.

The above measures will be given legal effect in terms of changes to the two bills mentioned in the Media Statement issued on 29 March 2020 – the Draft Disaster Management Tax Relief Bill and the Draft Disaster Management Tax Relief Administration Bill.

READ MORE: Mboweni on Ramaphosa’s new tax measures

April 23: SA scores WHO praise

A top World Health Organization official has hailed steps taken by South Africa to curb spread of the virus despite being the second most impacted country on the countinent – only behind Egypt as of April 23.

The WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director, Michael Ryan, addressing a virtual international press conference in Geneva on Wednesday said South Africa’s strategy pointed clearly to adequate preparedness on the part of government.

“The strategy in South Africa was based on preparations, primary prevention, lockdown and primary surveillance and 67 mobile units around the country, 28,000 community health workers trained in case detection.

“And I think with over 120 000 tests completed, with a 2.7 % positivity rate – which is incredible for that much testing for that return,” Ryan said.

The next sub-Saharan African country with huge test figures is Ghana, where authorities say over 60,000 tests have so far been conducted with 1,154 cases confirmed, the third most impacted in the region.

Summary: The big SANDF lockdown deployment

The Joint Standing Committee on Defence on Wesnesday announced that it was to deploy additional members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist government’s intervention in the fight against COVID-19.

President Ramaphosa wrote to the committee on the employment of the SANDF. He had also informed Parliament regarding the reasons, place, number of soldiers, cost involved, as well as the period of employment.

Chairperson Cyril Xaba said the committee is satisfied by the reasons given and the necessity to employ an additional 73 180 soldiers in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Of critical importance is the deployment of the South African Military Health Services and its capabilities, which is necessary to support the Department of Health, when considering the trajectory of infections expected, as per research by experts.

“Furthermore, the committee is satisfied with the reason that the initial 2 820 deployed was insufficient, considering the expected scale of the disease,” Xaba said. The deployment will come with huge financial implications, with the injection of R4.5 billion.

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