Finance Minister Tito Mboweni says funds will be set aside to curb the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa.

The country now has 62 confirmed cases with several suspected cases under investigation including two of internal transmission.

Addressing the media at an inter-ministerial meeting in Pretoria earlier on Monday, the minister said the government will have to reduce some programmes throughout its system and shift funds towards efforts to fight the virus.

“We stand ready to do two things, one, there are funds available for a national disaster, which will be immediately available. I don’t want to mention amounts in case prices begin to change. Funds have been set aside, secondly as the situation develops we will need to set aside further funding that means we will have to reduce programs throughout the government system by reducing the allocated amounts. This is to make sure that we should not have a situation where we say we are unable to procure testing facilities or whatever is necessary that’s as an urgent issue. So, I’m happy that Minister Nathi Mthethwa is willing to suspend his activities so that I can take some money from that and give it to the Minister of Health.”

Unity in the fight against COVID-19

As government tries to find ways to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus, it has called for unity between government, business, labour, and civil society.

During an inter-ministerial media briefing in Pretoria, Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, says all hands on deck are required to manage what is now a national disaster.

Mkhize says greater support from the private sector is needed.  He says the private sector has so far been supportive, but more assistance will be needed in the coming days.

“To that we also have the private sector that has offered to assist us in a number of issues particularly well in certain resources to assist with our mechanisms, for tracking, for tracing and monitoring facilities in some instances to offer accommodation, to support the quarantine.”

Bulk buying

The growing number of cases has also led to panic buying. This has left shelves in many retail stores empty.

Consumers rushed to shops across the country to stock up on items like food and particularly hand sanitizers and other alcohol-based cleaning products after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the pandemic a national disaster on Sunday night.

The National Economic Development and Labour Council, Nedlac , has warned against this.

Nedlac held an emergency meeting with stakeholders in Rosebank Johannesburg on Monday.

Executive Director Lisa Seftel, says panic buying will aggravate the situation.

“Very important public message is that there should be no panic buying because that will disrupt supply, the fourth area relates to the need for our workplaces to adapt, there was a consensus that we can’t regard this as workplaces as usual , that we should encourage where possible working from home,  short time shifts, work online.”