The recovery of the South African economy and the support of the vulnerable in society have come out at the top of government’s priority list.

This evening President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that government will release a social and economic support package of R500-billion.

The President’s address comes on the 25th day of the nationwide lockdown.

President Ramaphosa said the effects of the coronavirus pandemic would continue to take their toll in the weeks and months to come.

“The pandemic has resulted in the sudden loss of income for businesses and individuals alike,” he said.

He acknowledged that the national lockdown had deepened poverty and increased hunger in the country.

“The urgent and dramatic measures we have taken to delay the spread of the virus have been absolutely necessary.Presidency | South Africa @PresidencyZA

Government is implementing a range of relief measures to support the most vulnerable South Africans during this difficult time, and to respond to the impact of the lockdown on workers and businesses. #COVID19SA #CoronaVirusSA

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“This has given us as a country the space to better respond to the inevitable rise in infections and saves tens of thousands of lives,” Ramaphosa said.

He added that while the nationwide lockdown had devastated the economy, it was nothing compared to the catastrophic human, social and economic cost if the virus could spread among South African unchecked.

Ramaphosa said that government’s foremost priority was to intensify health interventions to delay the spread of the virus and save lives.

“At least 58 people have died. This is a loss we all mourn as South Africans,” he said.

He said that more than two million people have been screened in communities.

Of these more than 15 000 people were referred for further testing.

The President said that along with the public health efforts, government was also taking steps to protect livelihoods, fight off hunger and destitution and set the economy on a path of recovery.

He said that the social and economic response to the pandemic required a response that was equal to the scale of the disruption that it is causing.

“This economic and social response will take place in three phases,” Ramaphosa said.

“The first phase began in mid-march with the declaration that the coronavirus pandemic was a national disaster.”

This included a broad range of measures to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic on business, communities and individuals such as tax relief, small business funding and the release of disaster relief funds.

The second phase of the response by government will be aimed at stabilising the economy and addressing the extreme decline in supply and demand while at the same time protecting jobs.

“Tonight we are announcing a social and economic support package of R500-billion which amounts to roughly 10 percent of the country’s GDP,” he said.

In the third phase, government will implement a drive to recover the economy as South Africa emerges from the pandemic.

“With the assistance of various stakeholders, cabinet considered various proposals and finalised the social relief and economic support package that stands at the centre of the second phase,” he said.

This includes an “extraordinary health budget” to respond to the pandemic and the relief of hunger and social distress.

Also included is added support for companies and employees, as well as a phased re-opening of the economy.

Of the R500-b, R20-b will be made available to municipalities for the provision of emergency water supply and an increase in sanitation of public transport.

Government also expects municipalities to use these funds to provide food and shelter to the homeless.

The president also announced a temporary six-month emergency coronavirus grant into which R50-b will be directed to help those worst affected.

This includes vital increases in child support grants.

Child support grants will in May be increased by R300 and will then be increased by R500 for the months of June to October.

All other grants will increase by R250 for the next six months.

President Ramaphosa also launched a special Covid-19 relief grant of R300 per month for six months which will be paid to individuals who are currently unemployed and who are not receiving any other social or UIF payments.

Further details of the special grant will be released by the Department of Social Development.

A further R100-b will be set aside for the protection and creation of jobs.

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