Ramaphosa to address the nation on Monday over coronavirus – as Moody’s rating looms

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s Sunday address to the nation – over matters relating to the Covid-19 coronavirus – has been postponed to Monday.

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said that it is in the interest of South Africans that that the president address the nation after he is properly advised.

Mthembu said that the president’s meetings are expected to continue late into the night.

“Among other issues is to look at the affect on our people by this coronavirus and how do we mitigate against that affect. So that is the issue before the national command council,” said Mthembu.

Questions remain over how the coronavirus will impact the economy, which slipped into a technical recession in the fourth quarter.

Bloomberg reported that the country could lose its last investment-grade credit rating as Moody’s Investor Service is scheduled to release an assessment on Friday. If so, that could lead to heavy outflows, battering the rand even further. The rand weakened to an all-time low on a closing basis earlier this week.

Moody’s changed the outlook on the country’s rating to negative in November.

Ramaphosa has held meetings with business leaders to discuss the impact of the national state of disaster and engage on possible measures to mitigate the impact on the economy at large.

Sunday’s engagement with business forms part of a series of meetings the president has held with various stakeholder constituencies – including communities of faith and the nation’s political leadership – in the week since his declaration on 15 March 2020 of the national state of disaster.

The president declared a national state of disaster over the coronavirus outbreak in the country, with 240 confirmed cases as of Saturday (21 March).

The country has escalated measures to curb the spread of the virus, including banning travel to and from various countries and limiting gatherings to no more than 100 people, as the number of infections rises.

The restrictions are expected to dampen the country’s already dire economic outlook, with the Reserve Bank saying the country is likely to contract 0.2% this year, after slipping into a recession at the end of 2019, Bloomberg reported.

Among the proposals the business sector may be tabling is tax and loan relief for small- and medium-sized enterprises, as well as an amendment to the Unemployment Insurance Fund Act to allow workers who put in shorter hours to claim the shortfall from the fund, the Business Times reported.

The president’s final meeting on Sunday was as a chair of the National Command Council which will receive an update on the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak; progress and challenges related to implementation of the recently promulgated regulations on the state of disaster and other measures to protect the country, as well as the economic impact.

On the outlook for the period ahead, the council will consider whether the measures that are currently in place to contain the spread of the virus are sufficient and what further measures are required.


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Ramaphosa to address the nation on Monday over coronavirus – as Moody’s rating looms