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South Africa May Approach IMF for ‘Health Funding’

South Africa may approach the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for funding to fight the coronavirus that threatens to drag the country’s economy deeper into recession, said Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.

“This morning in a conversation with the [central] Reserve Bank and the Treasury I indicated that we should proceed and speak to the IMF and the World Bank about any facility that we can access for health purposes,” Mboweni told the Sunday Times on March 29.

South Africa entered a 21-day lockdown Friday, with people restricted to their homes and most businesses shuttered. The country up to that time had reported 1,187 cases of coronavirus and now almost certainly faces a deep recession.

On Friday, the country lost its last investment-grade credit rating when Moody’s downgraded South Africa to junk, citing persistently weak growth, fast-rising debt and the impact of an unreliable electricity supply.

“We take no ideological position in approaching the IMF and World Bank,” Mboweni told the Times. “They are creating facilities for this environment and SA should also take advantage of those facilities in order to relieve pressure on the fiscus.”

Meanwhile, South Africans who were airlifted from Wuhan, China, on Sunday completed their 14 days of quarantine in Limpopo and tested negative for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was present to bid farewell on Sunday to the more than 100 people who stayed under quarantine at The Ranch resort near Polokwane.

“We had assured all South Africans that these citizens were all negative, they did not present any symptoms and therefore did not pose any risk of infection. However, we took extra precautions and quarantined them for a 14-day period,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said Saturday. “On arrival medical screening and COVID-19 tests were conducted. They all came out negative. We are very pleased to report to South Africans that these citizens conducted their second test in preparation for their exit. These have all come out negative.”

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