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South Africa Unveils Post-Riot Relief, Eases Virus Lock...

Business Maverick

Business Maverick

South Africa Unveils Post-Riot Relief, Eases Virus Lockdown

The damaged interior of a burnt-out auto spares store following rioting in the Soweto district of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Marauding mobs have ransacked hundreds of businesses and destroyed telecommunications towers and other infrastructure, while transport networks and a program to vaccinate people against the coronavirus have been disrupted. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
By Bloomberg
26 Jul 2021 0

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled a new relief package to help businesses and individuals recover from a week of deadly riots and coronavirus curbs, as he eased lockdown restrictions amid slowing infections.

The measures include reinstating a monthly welfare grant of 350 rand ($24) for the poor until the end of March, a 400 million-rand state contribution to a humanitarian relief fund and support for uninsured businesses, Ramaphosa said Sunday in a televised speech. The government will also expand an employment tax incentive, and give companies an additional three months to pay taxes collected from their workers, he said.The imposition of stop-start curbs since the pandemic hit in March last year has shuttered thousands of businesses and added to already rampant unemployment. The economy shrank 7% last year, the most in a century last year.

The nation’s misery was compounded by protests that erupted after former President Jacob Zuma was jailed this month on contempt-of-court charges and morphed into a looting spree in which thousands of businesses and street traders were targeted. At least 330 people died in the unrest, which the South African Property Owners Association estimates cost the country about 50 billion rand in lost output and placed 150,000 jobs at risk.

“We have a duty to support those affected by this violence,” Ramaphosa said. “Many small and medium-sized businesses, formal and informal, have lost everything and will not be able to rebuild on their own. We will not abandon them.”

Peak Passed

The president said South Africa will move to an adjusted virus alert level 3, from alert level 4, after the country passed the peak of a third wave of Covid-19 cases and the government’s vaccination program gathered pace.

Alcohol sales, which have been banned for the past four weeks, will now be permitted at retail outlets from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and at restaurants. A moratorium on leisure travel in some areas will be revoked, while gatherings of as many as 50 people will be allowed indoors and as many as 100 outdoors.

An average of about 12,000 new Covid-19 cases were detected daily in South Africa last week, a 20% decline on the week before, although the situation varied widely from area to area. Infections continued to climb in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape provinces.

“Infections remain high and we must continue to exercise caution at all times,” Ramaphosa said.

The country has issued more than 6.3 million vaccines so far, and will have enough shots to last until the end of the year, with 31 million doses from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Inc. expected to arrive within in the next three months. All those over the age of 18 will be able to be inoculated from Sept. 1, the president said.

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