A woman wearing a protective face mask against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) sits next to her booth, as the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus spreads, in Tsomo, a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa , December 2, 2021. REUTERS / Siphiwe Sibeko

CAPE TOWN, Jan 21 (Reuters) – The World Bank has approved a $750 million loan to South Africa related to COVID-19, aimed at helping protect the poor and support economic recovery from the pandemic, the National Treasury announced on Friday.

The continent’s second-largest economy, South Africa has been hit hard by four waves of infection that have killed nearly 94,000 people and infected 3.5 million among Africa’s worst cases.

Successive shutdowns to protect people have seen thousands of businesses close, swelling an army of unemployed as South Africa’s unemployment rate hits record highs in 2021.

“The budget support from the World Bank comes at a critical time for us,” Dondo Mogajane, director general of the national treasury, said in a statement.

Funds from the Development Policy Loan would help fill a funding gap resulting from additional expenditures related to the COVID-19 crisis, he added.

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Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Clarence Fernandez

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