SA allocates extra R4bn for Covid-19 vaccines, social distress grant

The government plans to allocate another R2.82bn to social development for funding the monthly distress grant. File photo.
The government plans to allocate another R2.82bn to social development for funding the monthly distress grant. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

SA has allocated an extra R4bn 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 the finance minister on Tuesday.

The bill, expected to be debated with the National Treasury in a parliamentary committee meeting later on Tuesday, allocates an additional R1.25bn to the department of health to purchase Covid-19 vaccines and another R2.82bn to social development for funding the monthly distress grant of R350 per person.

The worst-hit country on the continent 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.

SA has ordered 31 million doses of J&J’s one-shot vaccine and 30 million of Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine, enough for a combined 46 million of its 60 million citizens.

On Sunday SA received its first weekly batch of Pfizer vaccine, with the US pharmaceutical giant expected to ship 4.5 million doses by June.

Funding for airline units

The Special Appropriation Bill also made adjustments to funding for the struggling state airlineSAA, which last week exited a form of bankruptcy protection called business rescue after around 17 months.

The government had previously pledged R10.5bn to SAA as part of a turnaround strategy, but R2.7bn had not been handed over yet.

The adjustment makes allowance for SAA’s units, with R819m earmarked for Mango and just over R1.6bn 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,” reads the bill.


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