The cure should not be worse than the virus – SA businesses

South African logistics and ecommerce businesses are asking Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel to allow the transport and delivery of goods with no human contact.

These businesses argue that allowing all goods to be transported domestically by professional courier companies will allow many businesses to continue operating.

They add that these sectors provide a valuable service to society while not adding undue risk to the further spread of COVID-19.

“We hereby request that you seriously consider allowing approved courier companies adhering to stringent preventative measures to transport all goods domestically,” the letter reads.

“We can play a vital part in not only preventing the spread of the virus, but ensuring the well-being of South Africans – please allow us to do this.”

The open letter to Patel has already been signed by over 1,000 logistics and ecommerce businesses and executives in South Africa.

Prominent signatories include uAfrica’s Andy Higgins, Bidorbuy’s Craig Lubbe, The Courier Guy’s Stephen Gleisner, and Courierit SA’s Marnie Dreyer Shaik.

Open letter

The full open letter to Patel is published below.

The letter and signatures can be seen here: DearEbrahimPatel.co.za

The Minister of Trade and Industry
The Honorable Ebrahim Patel
7th April 2020

Dear Honorable Minister,

Re: Request to allow the domestic transport of all goods with no human contact.

We write as concerned South African businesses operating in the local logistics sector. We are proud of the proactive response the South African government has taken to address the Covid-19 crisis, especially when compared to many other so-called first world countries.

We understand we are living in extraordinary times and saving lives can and must be our priority.

We however also believe the “cure” cannot be more detrimental to society than the virus itself and a balance needs to be obtained between extreme lockdown measures and protecting human well-being as well as the economy – a deterioration of which can also ultimately lead to the loss of lives.

We understand the most effective tool we have right now to fight the virus is to eliminate human contact as far as possible. We hope in time, ubiquitous testing with contact tracing, effective treatments and ultimately a vaccine are additional tools that will be instrumental in fighting the virus.

Right now the vast majority of South Africans remain free of the virus and are adhering to the regulations imposed by the government by staying at home. Families across the country are attempting to go on with their everyday lives, within the constraints of being home-bound. Those that can, have set up home offices.

Many children are likely to be schooled from home and will be requiring school supplies. With the onset of cooler weather, warm clothes and bedding is also needed. Access to non-essential home supplies will assist South Africans to continue with their activities at home for any period of lockdown.

Furthermore, the mental well-being of people can be improved by having access to certain non-essential goods such as devices for home entertainment and other items to remain occupied and healthy at home.

The logistics sector supports many micro businesses that would be able to continue to operate through the lockdown without human contact including:

  • All forms of eCommerce.
  • Online retailers – tens of thousands of online merchants are able to operate remotely.
  • Offline retailers – physical stores will be able to make use of courier services for home deliveries thereby preventing people from making unnecessary trips and reducing their risk of exposure.

For the most part, these micro businesses are not eligible for UIF or other government programmes available to support small businesses with many of these businesses currently on the brink of collapse.

As an essential service, the logistics industry’s workforce is already deployed – fortunately most drivers own their own delivery vehicles and do not need to make use of public transport to get to work.

Unfortunately, with essential goods exclusively permitted to be transported, the costs to support this infrastructure are similar to a fully operational scenario but with income for these drivers significantly lower and currently unsustainable. Extending a lockdown with the current restrictions will ultimately result in job losses for many of these drivers.

The logistics industry has already taken proactive measures to prevent transmission of the virus:

  • Drivers are tested daily for any symptoms.
  • Drivers have been supplied with face masks.
  • Hand sanitiser is used before and after every collection / delivery.
  • Parcels are sanitised.
  • All interactions are contactless with sufficient separation between the driver and the sender/recipient.

We would argue that by allowing all goods  – including those deemed to be non-essential – to be transported domestically by professional courier companies, will allow many businesses to continue to operate and provide a valuable service to society while not adding undue risk to the further spread of the virus.

We hereby request that you seriously consider allowing approved courier companies adhering to stringent preventative measures to transport all goods domestically. We can play a vital part in not only preventing the spread of the virus, but ensuring the well-being of South Africans – please allow us to do this.

Yours sincerely,

Concerned Business

Now read: South African companies cutting salaries during the lockdown

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The cure should not be worse than the virus – SA businesses