Cape Town – All eyes will be on President Cyril Ramaphosa tonight when he is expected to address the nation on the measures that would be taken beyond lockdown to reopen the economy.
As of Wednesday, the Western Cape had 1 068 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 22 deaths. Nationally there are over 3 000 cases.
Political parties are expecting Ramaphosa to make a move fast before the country’s already strained economy starts collapsing.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said: “He must replace the hard lockdown with a smart lockdown that enables most people to get back to work immediately while enforcing strict hygiene and social distancing requirements. And every single person who goes out into public must wear a face mask at all times.”
Steenhuisen said a smart lockdown approach would enable health officials to respond quickly and with agility as the epidemic evolves.
“If there is a spike in a particular area, we could escalate the lockdown measures, including a travel ban, in that region but not across the entire country. If the epidemic curve flattens in a given area, we could relax the lockdown there. The brutal enforcement of the hard lockdown beyond 10 April, by a state that is so demonstrably incapable of supporting its citizens, has devastated the ability of millions of South Africans to earn a living.”
Good secretary-general Brett Herron said: “The whole country is eager to move on to our new normal as soon as possible. Businesses are on the brink of destruction, jobs are on the line, livelihoods disrupted and education is on pause. The president was correct to implement a hard lockdown. It was necessary and it appears to have been successful.
“But the economic and social impacts are starting to make it impossible for some families to adhere to total isolation as they face hunger and starvation. I hope to hear the plan for the phased reopening (and) what scale and results for testing and infections are required for easing of the lockdown regulations.”
South Africa would be adopting a phased approach to easing the lockdown because an abrupt end to the restrictions could see an overwhelming resurgence in infections, Ramaphosa said on Tuesday evening.
Director for the Institute for Futures Research at Stellenbosch University Dr Morne Mostert said: “The lockdown exit will take some time in any country as value chains endeavour to recover. In livelihood terms, the country cannot afford even the current lockdown. As the government aims to balance lives and livelihoods, kick-starting the economy in an ethical, non-partisan manner is now urgent. it is highly unlikely that a blanket lockdown in its current form will be extended. But certain health protocols will most certainly be extended.”
Fears are growing over the prospects of more hunger riots, lootings and crime as the most vulnerable are left with no source of income.
Economist Dawie Roodt also urged Ramaphosa to open the economy.
“We are creating a massive disaster by the day and it is getting worse. Poverty will kill South Africans and not the virus,” Roodt said.
By Marvin Charles