South Africa may approach the IMF for ‘health funding’: Finance minister

Tito Mboweni, South African Minister of Finance, delivers his 2020 Budget Speech in the South African Parliament, on February 26, 2020, in Cape Town. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 March 2020

South Africa may approach the IMF for ‘health funding’: Finance minister

  • South Africa entered a 21-day lockdown on Friday, with people restricted to their homes and most businesses shuttered
  • The country has reported 1,187 cases of coronavirus and now almost certainly faces a deep recession

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa may approach the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for funding to fight the coronavirus that threatens to drag the country’s economy deeper into recession, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said in the Sunday Times newspaper.

“This morning in a conversation with the (central) Reserve Bank and the Treasury I indicated that we should proceed and speak to the IMF and the World Bank about any facility that we can access for health purposes,” Mboweni said in an interview with the weekly newspaper.

South Africa entered a 21-day lockdown on Friday, with people restricted to their homes and most businesses shuttered. The country has reported 1,187 cases of coronavirus and now almost certainly faces a deep recession.

On Friday, the country lost its last investment-grade credit rating when Moody’s downgraded South Africa to junk, citing persistently weak growth, fast-rising debt and the impact of an unreliable electricity supply.

“We take no ideological position in approaching the IMF and World Bank. They are creating facilities for this environment and SA should also take advantage of those facilities in order to relieve pressure on the fiscus,” Mboweni said in the interview.


India moves into top 10 worst-hit by COVID-19

Updated 27 min 50 sec ago

India moves into top 10 worst-hit by COVID-19

  • Experts claim lockdown measures have failed as death toll passes 4,000 mark

NEW DELHI: India on Monday climbed into the top 10 countries worst-hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with the number of deaths passing the 4,000 mark.

Sunday saw the highest one-day surge in cases with 6,634 new infections reported, taking the current total to 140,215, slightly ahead of Iran.

The deadly COVID-19 outbreak has now claimed the lives of 4,041 people in India.

Monday’s milestone figures coincided with the resumption of domestic flight services which experts claimed was an indication of the failure of the two-month-long nationwide lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

“The lockdown was meant to contain the cases but even after 60 days cases are rising, which means the lockdown was not properly planned and executed,” said virologist Prof. T. Jacob John, of the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Harjit Singh Bhatti, of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, said: “The government understands that it has failed in its lockdown plan. They could not anticipate the problems and the crisis it would engender. As a result, the government has no other option but to resume the economy. For the government now the focus is livelihood not the life.”

However, the Indian government disputed the claims saying the lockdown had helped to tackle the virus.

“If the doubling rate in India before the lockdown was between three to four days, today the doubling rate is more than 13 days. Lockdown and all its guidelines have acted as a potent social vaccine,” said India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

“Lockdown was imposed in India at the right time. Other developed countries wasted many days to take this decision,” he added.

On March 25, India started the first phase of its nationwide lockdown and the country is now into the fourth phase of the shutdown, which ends on May 31. Two months ago, India had only recorded 550 COVID-19 cases.

The western state of Maharashtra is one of the worst-affected in India with close to 60,000 cases and about 2,000 deaths. Mumbai, its financial capital, has registered more than 30,000 cases alone with at least 1,000 fatalities, forcing local authorities to procure 80 percent of private-hospital beds in the metropolis to deal with the crisis.

“The cases in Mumbai are increasing every day and health workers across the city are working overtime to deal with the situation,” Dr. Shariva Randive, of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), told Arab News.

Pune-based Dr. Avinash Bhonde, of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), said: “A central team of doctors said a couple of months ago that Mumbai alone would witness more than 150,000 cases but in the whole of Maharashtra the total number is around 60,000, so it is less than what we expected.”

He added that there had been gaps in handling the lockdown. “Had there been micro planning and some corrective steps taken in the middle of the lockdown we could have been in a better situation.”

The length of the lockdown left millions of daily wage workers in big cities jobless and homeless. With no economic incentives or alternative plans put in place for them by the government, and no transport, many walked back to their villages, sometimes up to 800 km from their place of work.

To deal with the unprecedented situation the government, from the first week of May, started running special trains to carry more than 3 million people to the eastern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

On May 10, Bihar had recorded 700 cases of COVID-19, but on Sunday the number was more than 2,600. The state has set up an estimated 14,000 quarantine centers to house thousands of people returning from virus hotbeds such as Maharashtra and Delhi.

“Bihar’s coronavirus cases may be lower than other states right now, but the way it is growing it is alarming and the state might face a huge problem,” a health official in the Bihar government told Arab News.