Finance minister Tito Mboweni. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS/BLOOMBERG
Finance minister Tito Mboweni. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS/BLOOMBERG

Money to implement the government’s plan to deal with the spread of Covid-19 will be made available immediately from the national disaster fund, finance minister Tito Mboweni said on Monday.

Mboweni did not want to mention how much was available, but said “funds have been set aside”.

This was after President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday declared a national state of disaster and announced sweeping measures to contain the spread of the virus, which included travel restrictions on foreigners from hard-hit countries, a ban on mass gatherings of more than 100 people and the closure of schools.

Various ministers on Monday addressed the media following the president’s announcement to give further detail on the government’s plan to try contain the virus.

As of Sunday night, there were 61 confirmed cases. Health minister Zweli Mkhize on Monday said the government was investigating another four cases and would provide an update later in the day.

Mboweni said as the situation developed, further funding will need to be made available.

“That means that we will need to reduce programmes throughout government ... and reduce allocated amounts so that we can shift funds to this project, which we are committed to achieve,” he said.

He said Treasury officials were also in contact with the financial sector regulatory authorities which report to the minister of finance, to make sure they have a co-ordinated approach as far as the banking and finance sectors were concerned.

“We need to make make sure that we do not have a situation where we are unable to procure testing facilities or whatever is necessary.

“[I am] so happy [sports, art & culture] minister Nathi Mthethwa is willing to suspend some activities so I can take some of his funds and give it to the minister of health,” Mboweni said.

Ramaphosa also announced that the government will close more than half of its 72 ports of entry on Monday, including 35 land ports and two seaports, and is discouraging all nonessential travel in SA, particularly by air, rail or bus.

Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel said that despite the closures, there was an intention to ensure essential supplies and goods were still available.

He said the government has been talking to critical industries such as food producers and retailers, to make sure that their supply lines are intact.

The retail sector was optimistic that it could work on retaining their supply lines.

Patel said they needed to ensure that there would be no panic buying.

“What has been strong and important for us is that we have a domestic industrial capability to provide basic goods and make sure there are no disruptions,” he said.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za