CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa has allocated an additional 4 billion rand ($ 276 million) to purchase COVID-19 vaccines and provide a special distress grant to thousands of people affected by the pandemic, in a special appropriations bill tabled by the Minister of Finance on Tuesday.
The bill, which is expected to be debated with the National Treasury at a parliamentary committee meeting later Tuesday, allocates an additional Rand 1.25 billion to the Ministry of Health to purchase COVID-19 and 2.82 billion vaccines Additional Rand to Social Development for Distress Grant of 350 Rand per person.
South Africa – the most affected country on the continent in terms of reported coronavirus infections and deaths – has struggled to launch a mass vaccination program, inoculating just over 329,000 health workers with the vaccine Johnson & Johnson as part of a research study, pending its first batch of commercial doses to become available.
It has ordered 31 million doses of the one-shot vaccine from J&J and 30 million doses of the two-dose vaccine from Pfizer, enough for a total of 46 million of its 60 million people.
On Sunday, it received its first weekly batch of Pfizer vaccine, with the US pharmaceutical giant due to ship 4.5 million doses by June.
The special appropriations bill also made adjustments to funding for ailing state-owned airline South African Airways (SAA), which last week quit a local form of bankruptcy protection known as corporate bailouts after about 17 months.
The South African government had previously pledged R10.5 billion to SAA as part of a recovery strategy, but R2.7 billion has yet to be released.
The adjustment allows SAA units, such as budget airline Mango and its technical division, to secure funding as well, with R819 million earmarked for Mango and just over 1.6 billion for SAA Technical. .
“Despite the date of entry into force of this law, the credit for the subsidiaries … must be considered as a credit and an expense for the fiscal year 2020/21”, the bill reads.
(1 USD = 14.4729 rand)
Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Edited by Andrew Heavens and Richard Pullin