South Africa has started to gradually loosen its strict coronavirus lockdown, allowing some industries to reopen after five weeks of restrictions that plunged its struggling economy deeper into turmoil.
The economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation was already teetering when the lockdown kicked in on March 27 to contain the spread of infections.
President Cyril Ramaphosa took the decision to stagger the easing of the lockdown restrictions in a bid to strike a balance between protecting public health and the economy.
“Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living,” Ramaphosa said. “Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment.”
South Africa’s economy was in recession and reeling from low growth and high debts before the coronavirus pandemic began.
Last week, President Ramaphosa unveiled an unprecedented $26.9bn economic stimulus and social relief package, amounting to about 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said the country will seek coronavirus relief aid from the IMF and the World Bank, where it is eligible for up to $4.2bn.