Lockdown a disaster in the making – Sakeliga

Sakeliga has warned that the sound of businesses shutting their doors, and workers becoming unemployed, is fast becoming the hallmark of this lockdown.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced yesterday that South Africa’s COVID-19 alert level will be lowered from level 4 to level 3 by the end of May.

Areas with high COVID-19 infection rates will, however, remain on level 4 at the end of the month to stop the spread of the virus.

Many of the areas with high COVID-19 infection rates are metropolitan areas where most of the country’s business is taking place.

The impact of the shutdown on the economy is therefore set to continue, and many businesses are warning of dire consequences.

Independent business community Sakeliga said the lockdown is an economic, humanitarian, and social disaster in the making.

19% of businesses recently polled by Sakeliga expect to go bankrupt within the next month, and 32% within the next three months.

“Yet tonight President Cyril Ramaphosa committed his government to extending lockdown and indefinitely maintaining the State of Disaster,” Sakeliga said.

It added that no independently-verifiable criteria for when and how lockdown should be lifted were provided to businesses and the public.

“Ramaphosa’s statements also imply that the State of Disaster will be renewed before it lapses around 15 June, 90 days after it was initially declared,” Sakeliga said.

“At this stage, given the government’s failure to provide its official models, yardsticks and estimated trade-offs underlying the lockdown strategy, South Africa therefore faces an indefinite lockdown.”

According to Sakeliga, waiting until May to lift the lockdown is too late.

“Lockdown should be lifted now, and the micro-management approach should be completely abandoned,” it said.

“The only possibly workable approach would entail to stop defining what people are allowed to do, and rather craft strictly limited regulations defining unacceptable activities.”

It said societies cannot function when everything is deemed illegal until proven legal, which is the experiment government is currently subjecting the public to.

Allow everything with a short list of exclusions

Sakeliga’s views are shared by Cas Coovadia, CEO of Business for South Africa, who agrees the economy must be opened up.

Coovadia said 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.

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.

Now read: Allow everything with a short list of exclusions – Business for SA CEO

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Lockdown a disaster in the making – Sakeliga