South Africa’s national lockdown period will be extended to the end of April 2020, after which many hope it will then be concluded.
When this happens, it will be critical to ensure this period is managed correctly, or South Africa risks a second wave of coronavirus infections and deaths.
To find out what this scenario could look like, MyBroadband spoke to DA Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry Dean Macpherson shortly before the lockdown extension was announced.
Macpherson said that while the DA will be articulating its position more clearly next week, it is considering various measures and ideas already.
A transitional period
According to Macpherson, it is important that South Africa implements a transitional mechanism to bridge the gap between full lockdown and business as usual.
This will allow South Africa to move between different levels of lockdown in order to balance health and economic concerns.
“Social distancing and use of PPE will become even more important in this time, which will require guidelines or protocols for social distancing in different contexts,” said Macpherson.
“What is required for social distancing in a mall is different to a mine, and this needs to be fleshed out.”
One area where Macpherson said the South African government needs to do better is transparent, reliable, and regular data reporting.
Macpherson said this will be particularly important in an environment where restrictions are eased.
“If you are going to squeeze and lift in cycles, as many countries are contemplating, then you need to have transparent indicators which will trigger ‘squeezing’ or ‘lifting’,” he said.
The economy needs to get up and running
Macpherson said it is critical that the economy resumes itself – albeit in a staged approach.
“The longer we take to get the wheels turning the deeper the economic devastation,” he said.
“It’s not a choice between lives and livelihoods. Destroyed livelihoods will lead to loss of life.”
“Poor health is an economic issue, and poor economics is a health issue so we must maintain that balance.”
Government refuses to “work together”
Macpherson said that while the current lockdown has been necessary, the DA has been disappointed with how the ANC has not taken advice from opposition parties on board.
“We have articulated our concerns along the way to various ministers and to the president. What has been regrettable is the almost complete unwillingness on behalf of the executive to engage on these inputs that the DA has made which serenely undermines the call to work together,” Macpherson said.
One such concern raised by the DA was the banning of non-essential items in stores and pharmacies.
“It is illogical and makes no sense for instance that a store at a petrol station is not allowed to sell pies or that a grocery store is not allowed to sell prepared, warm food,” MacPherson said previously.
“We have seen even more ridiculous examples of this in this week [ending 4 April] of lockdown, such as retail stores closing their magazines and snacks shelves and mothers of newborn babies not being able to buy clothes for their babies.”
“Any item, from hygiene products to electronics, found in a retailer that is allowed to be open should be available for sale to consumers. Once existing stock is sold out, then these items won’t be replenished until after the lockdown.”