Instead of begrudgingly opening the economy slowly with a long list of prescribed goods, the government should open the economy fully and have a short list of exclusions.
This is the view of Cas Coovadia, CEO of Business for South Africa, who spoke to CNBC Africa about their suggestions on reopening the country.
Coovadia said instead of the current 5-level alert system, a mindset change is needed by the government to help the economy.
He said it is now accepted that a spike in COVID-19 infections will happen irrespective of whether South Africa remains under lockdown or not.
So instead of hurting the economy through an extended lockdown, he suggested allowing businesses to operate with a set of conditions to ensure safe operations.
“We believe virtually everything should be allowed with the exception of businesses which cannot do social distancing,” he said.
He said the plan to gradually open up industries like ecommerce does not make sense. “Open up ecommerce now. Totally,” said Coovadia.
Allowing people to do their shopping online not only helps ecommerce companies, but will also kickstart courier services and economic activity, he said.
He also bemoaned regulations which prevent certain items being sold at supermarkets and others stores which are open.
“While I’m at the shop there should be no reason to restrict me to buy whatever I want to buy, because it has no impact on health issues” he said.
Coovadia said the government should also understand that you cannot open a factory to 30% capacity.
“Manufacturing doesn’t work that way. Machinery doesn’t work that way. You cannot get your machines to work at 30%,” he said.
It is a good idea to open up ecommerce – SARS commissioner
Coovadia’s views are in line with those of SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter, who said ecommerce holds great potential for South Africa and should be opened up.
Speaking to the Nielsen Network, Kieswetter said many people think of ecommerce as a virtual economy – but it opens up a full value chain of economic activity.
While the shopping experience is online, it supports upstream and downstream activities in the physical world.
This includes logistics, warehousing, packing, and transport, which provide employment to a lot of people.
“To stop ecommerce loses the fact that it is real jobs and real people who can be employed,” said Kieswetter.
He said ecommerce is an area where social distancing, which helps to contain the spread of the virus, can more easily be applied.
“If we approach it from a risk-based perspective, we are encouraging those who make the decisions to review the ecommerce restrictions.”