South Africa announces $26 billion to help struggling nation

People queue on a soccer field to be screened and tested for COVID-19 at Lenasia South, south Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, during a campaign aimed to combat the spread of Coronavirus.

South Africa’s president has announced an “extraordinary budget” of $500 billion rand ($26 billion) to address the huge socioeconomic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that “our country and the world we live in will never be the same again.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa in a national address said Tuesday that the amount is roughly 10% of the country’s GDP. He said the budget will be described more fully in the coming days but that the top priorities are combating the virus and relieving “hunger and social distress” as millions of South Africans struggle to survive.

One-tenth of the new special budget will go toward the country’s most vulnerable people over the next six months in one of the world’s most unequal nations.

Other priorities include the protection of companies and workers in a country where the economy had been struggling even before the pandemic.

Ramaphosa said the virus and measures to contain it will continue to take a severe toll “in the weeks and months to come,” with many people losing their jobs. Unemployment already had been 29%.

South Africa’s lockdown is set to continue until April 1. “ If we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease,” the president said.

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