A special package of R500m has been set aside for trade finance to import essential medical products to fight the coronavirus outbreak, Polity reports Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel has announced. The amount forms part of a package of more than R3bn put together by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which falls within its oversight. The funds are meant to help vulnerable firms and to fast-track funding to companies that are critical in efforts to address the impact of the coronavirus, Patel said.
The report says the minister was speaking at a briefing in Pretoria with ministers in the economic cluster. They laid out their action plans to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the economy. This followed an announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that there would be a nationwide lockdown of 21 days, enforced from Thursday at midnight.
Patel weighed in on the funding from the IDC, which will support South African businesses.
The report says apart from the R500m set aside for essential medical products, R700m will be made available for working capital, equipment and machinery. The funds will also be used to prioritise food security, by addressing surges in demand and to support supply chains that may be interrupted by the closure of large companies.
Behind the scenes, National Treasury, the health department and private stakeholders are working to secure enough medical equipment to prepare the healthcare system, which is expected to be overwhelmed in the coming weeks, News24 reports projections show.
To facilitate emergency procurements, Treasury issued an instruction note last Thursday, telling accounting officers how the procurement of hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves, face shields, protective suits and a range of other medical equipment should be undertaken.
The report says a key advisor to Ramaphosa has revealed tthat one of the president's main concerns was potential corruption, linked to emergency procurement.
Other than the normal protective equipment, of interest are three suppliers who were asked to supply powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR's) at prices ranging from R24,000 to R29,000 each. These devices, worn in conjunction with a hood and body suit, allow healthcare workers to work safely with patients who have contagious and dangerous diseases, while they breathe fresh air.
Treasury envisaged that South Africa could require 22,000 of these.Full Polity report Full News24 report