The U.S. government has pledged $1.8 million to help fight the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa, the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in South Africa said in a news release. The April 16 announcement brought to more than $2.7 million in aid the U.S. has committed to South Africa since the start of the outbreak.
Many South Africans have had their livelihoods imperiled by stay-at-home orders that helped prevent the spread of the virus, but also stymied economic activity and income-earning opportunities. This is especially true for self-employed people and those working for small- and medium-scale enterprises.
A week after the announcement of more U.S. aid, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the government’s plan to allow a partial reopening of the economy on May 1, with travel restrictions eased and some industries allowed to operate, based on risk. He said international borders would remain closed, and travel would be allowed for essential services only. Businesses were encouraged to continue with work-from-home policies wherever possible.
Some schools will reopen, but probably with strict limits on class sizes. Most people still are encouraged to stay home.
By April 23, the country had recorded 3,953 confirmed cases, including 75 deaths, with 143,570 people tested for the virus. That day saw the highest one-day leap in infections with 318 new cases, though the Health Ministry said that was largely revealed by intensified screening.
“We cannot take action today that we will deeply regret tomorrow; we must avoid a rushed reopening that could risk a spread which would need to be followed by another hard lockdown,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address. “We have to balance the need to resume economic activity with the imperative to contain the virus and save lives.”
The April 16 funding announcement complemented a comprehensive effort by the U.S. government to assist South Africa during the pandemic. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided technical assistance to South Africa’s National Department of Health (NDoH) and National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), focusing on containing the spread of this virus and mitigating its impact in South Africa.
Those efforts include work by public health experts to develop guidelines for risk communication, identification, isolation, testing and contact tracing for people under investigation for COVID-19.
The U.S. CDC also has worked to develop a virus shedding protocol to estimate disease burden, risk factors and transmission dynamics, which will help guide public health protocols to stop transmission of the disease and save lives. On the front line, the U.S. CDC also deployed staff members to South Africa’s NDoH and NICD to support data-entry activities and work at the provincial level.