SA corporates pledge financial support to fight coronavirus in SA

By Edward West Time of article published Apr 1, 2020

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CAPE TOWN -  South Africa’s large corporates on  Tuesday continued to pledge financial support to the aid the government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Global internet business and media group Naspers, the biggest company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange by value, on Tuesday committed R1.5 billion in emergency aid, it said in a statement.

The group would contribute R 500 million to the Solidarity Response Fund announced by the President Cyril Ramaphosa last week.
In addition, Naspers would buy R1bn worth of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies in China – in partnership with the Chinese government and Tencent – to support South Africa’s health workers and fly it to South Africa as soon as possible.

“By working with government and civil society we want to help our country overcome this very difficult period,” said  Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, the chief executive of Naspers South Africa.

The details of the personal protective equipment and other medical supplies were currently being finalised together with South African authorities, partners and supply networks in China.

Meanwhile Absa said it would initially contribute R15.7 million towards the Covid-19 fight, which would be used to extend access to testing and hygiene materials in marginalized communities, for public health and reporting awareness campaigns in partnership with government and GovChat, and R700 000 worth of food redirected from the cancelled Absa   Cape Epic mountain bike race, to vulnerable communities  Absa Group would give R10m to the Solidarity Fund and a further R4m to civil society organisations involved in the fight against the pandemic, and R1m for a range of preventative, protective and vaccine research initiatives.

“The rate of escalation in infections confirms that the steps taken by the government to deal with this pandemic are both necessary and urgent. Decisive action from all of us is essential to protect human life and socioeconomic sustainability,” said Absa Group chief executive Daniel Mminele.

The Solidarity Fund was established by the government to support the most vulnerable to deal with the impact of COVID-19. The Fund will complement government resources allocated to the national public health response, to prevent and slow down the spread of the virus.

Absa had also partnered with the department of social development and GovChat in a public awareness and hygiene education campaign using the bank’s sports broadcast advertising spots and prominent football personalities.

GovChat is a digital platform that connects ordinary people to government services. GovChat’s service delivery notification service is being used to help people use their mobile phones to notify health authorities, and be directed to appropriate health facilities. The data will also assist authorities to identify Covid-19 hotspots at any given time to manage resource allocation.

The financial aid was in addition to the rolling out of a relief programme for eligible Absa customers impacted by Covid-19.

Private hospital group Netcare said it would spend an additional R150m to combat the pandemic by enhancing its intensive care and high care facilities.

The company had committed to the government to treat public patients in Netcare facilities on a not-for-profit, cost recovery basis.  Referrals from the public sector would be assessed and pre-authorised by Netcare on a case-by-case basis.

Enhancing its ICU/High Care facilities included purchasing additional ventilators, ultraviolet disinfection robots and specialised air filters to ensure appropriate disinfection measures, and to supplement stocks of personal protective equipment for our staff and healthcare colleagues while they work on the front line in combating this pandemic.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has to date infected over 720 000 people globally, resulting in more than 34 000 deaths. With more than two billion people around the world in some form of lockdown or self-isolation, these are unprecedented times,” said Netcare chief executive Richard Friedland.

He cautioned the situation in South Africa remained extremely concerning.

“This is attributable to the extremely high levels of population density in certain geographical areas which is further exacerbated by a significant proportion of the population being immune compromised. 

“As the country enters the winter season, in which approximately 19 percent of South Africans contract Influenza or the Flu virus, the situation may well worsen,” he said.

Netcare’s actuarial forecast models showed that the already constrained health system will struggle to cope with the looming, and significantly higher increase in the number of patients requiring hospitalisation and ICU care.

Netcare is engaging on a regular, ongoing basis with healthcare colleagues across the globe, particularly in China, Italy and France to ensure that the painful but valuable lessons learned elsewhere are fully implemented in South Africa.

The group’s hospitals had suspended non-essential elective surgery.

Meanwhile, Curro Holdings, South Africa’s biggest independent education provider, has offered its 3D Printers to several healthcare organisations and their staff to aid in the printing of protective face shields for medical workers currently fighting against Covid-19 in South Africa.

Because the company follows a 21st Century education approach, many of its schools have 3D printers on site. These printers will be used to print protective face shields, including the head band and shield components, the group said yesterday.

The group is in the process of rallying partners to assist with the supply of appropriate materials for the printing to take effect.

In order to mobilise their 3D printers during the national lockdown, Curro had applied to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) for an essential services permit.  

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) MakerSpace Centre said on Tuesaday it was also producing 3D-printed visor frames for facial shields for use by healthcare workers in Gauteng.

BUSINESS REPORT 

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