UASA is proud of all South Africans on their positive response to the lockdown as we go through day 13 of the 21-day lockdown implemented by President Cyril Ramaphosa against the world pandemic Covid-19 declared as a national disaster.
Since March 26, South Africa has on a daily basis recorded between 30 and 80 new cases of Coronavirus from tests conducted on people across the country. As it stands, South Africa has a total of 1 749 confirmed cases, 95 recoveries, 13 deaths with 58 098 tests conducted.
Globally a total of 1 430 453 cases have been confirmed and 301 385 recoveries with a death toll of 82 133. The pandemic which has hit almost 204 countries worldwide, has led to many countries going into lockdown in effort to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
For South Africa, the lockdown has resulted as one of the biggest economic blows the country has ever faced. When the lockdown came into effect, the Rand has since suffered its worst low of R19 against the US dollar mark reminding South Africans of the tough times ahead.
Not only is South Africa severely affected by the pandemic but other economies worldwide have also taken a blow on the devastating effects of Covid-19. But for South Africa, the economic distress is slowly pushing the country to its knees as majority of productions have been halted along with major retails closing their doors and people going into lockdown.
As a third world country with majority of citizens surviving below the minimum wage band, many citizens are forced to take a risk during these tough economic times in order to generate incomes for their households. This is after the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, issued an amendment on Covid-19 regulations that provisioned informal traders to trade during lockdown, which led to hundreds of informal traders taking the risk of contracting Covid-19 by signing permits that allows them to continue trading and selling fruits and vegetables on the streets in order to feed their families.
In other Sectors, employed persons that are not receiving pay during this period, as well as self-employed persons that can’t generate income are still under pressure as access to relief measures are seen to be onerous and the benefits selective.
Also, in the spirit of Ubuntu, it is heartening to see charity based organisations, individuals and community driven relief schemes around the country work tirelessly to try and provide basic foods and goods to the most vulnerable in our societies, in an attempt to alleviate hunger and suffering amongst all South Africans.
Central banks and governments, including ours, in several countries have pledged financial relief to support their economy, businesses and people during lock-downs.
To date, Government has introduced several relief measures including:
- Paying employees who fall ill through work exposure via Compensation fund,
- Utilising UIF reserves as a National Disaster Fund for Employees not receiving an income,
- Providing tax relief measures through treasury,
- Setting up a Temporary Employee/ Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) that will see a special dispensation for companies that are in distress to pay employees and avoid retrenchment.
- Providing food and toiletries relief to citizens who earn a combined household income of below R3 600, recipients of Sassa pension, disability, child welfare and military veteran grants.
- Setting up a Solidarity Fund with an initial seed funding of R150million into which all persons can contribute to.
- The Department of Small Business Development has made over R500 million available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in distress through a simplified application process.
- R200 million from the Department of Tourism has been made available to assist SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector who are under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions.
- Temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards have been identified for homeless people.
- Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and other organisations have availed over R150 million to assist affected industry personnel.
As we are already past the halfway mark of the 21 day lockdown, UASA calls on its members and citizens to stay home and be safe, where possible. Together, we can overcome this.