CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa has allocated an extra R4-billion ($276-million) to buy COVID-19 vaccines and extend a special distress grant to thousands of people hit by the pandemic, in a Special Appropriation Bill tabled by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Tuesday.
The bill, expected to be debated with the National Treasury in a parliamentary committee meeting later today, allocates an additional R1.25-billion to the department of health to purchase COVID-19 vaccines and another R2.82-billion to social development for the distress grant of R350 per person.
South Africa – the worst-hit country in Africa in terms of reported coronavirus infections and deaths – has struggled to kickstart a mass vaccination programme, inoculating just over 329,000 health workers with Johnson & Johnson’s shot as part of a research study, while it waits for its first batch of commercial doses to become available.
South Africa has ordered 31 million doses of J&J’s one-shot vaccine and 30 million doses of Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine, enough for a combined 46 million of its 60 million people.
On Sunday it received its first weekly batch of Pfizer vaccine, with the U.S. pharmaceutical giant expected to ship 4.5 million doses by June.
Special Bill also makes adjustments to funding for SAA
The Special Appropriation Bill also made adjustments to funding for struggling state airline, South African Airways (SAA), which last week exited a local form of bankruptcy protection – called business rescue – after roughly 17 months.
South Africa’s government had previously pledged R10.5-billion to SAA as part of a turnaround strategy, but R2.7-billion had not been handed over as yet.
The adjustment makes allowance for SAA’s units, such as low-cost airline Mango and its technical division, to also get financing, with R819-million earmarked for Mango and just over 1.6 billion for SAA Technical.
“Despite the effective date of this Act, the appropriation for the subsidiaries … must be regarded as an appropriation and expenditure for the 2020/21 financial year,” read the Bill.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Richard Pullin)