President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: GCIS.
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: GCIS.
As South Africa’s lockdown limbo stretches, workers are eager to learn when they can expect to get back to work President Cyril Ramaphosa left them hanging.
Those hoping for clarity on the gradual reopening of the economy from Ramaphosa’s Wednesday night address would have been left disappointed.
Ramaphosa hinted that the list of business that can operate at level 4 of the national lockdown will be added to, but would provide no further detail on the night.
Specific sectors have engaged in intense lobbying to get the government to allow them to get back to work.
Breweries could face significant losses if they are forced to dump millions of litres of their stock.
In other sectors, hair-dressers and beauticians have sited their industries’ high standards of hygiene in an appeal to the government.
Middle and working-class South Africans grow increasingly restless as the lockdown stretches out with many left wondering how they will be able to put food onto the table.
The liquor and tobacco industries have engaged in the most high-profile battle with the National Command Council, as South Africans crave their favourite vices.
Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel has raised eyebrows with his gazetted list of clothing that is allowed to be sold under the revised conditions of level 4 lockdown.
Ramaphosa defended once again the decision to implement a strict national lockdown in his address on 13 May 2020.
The President said it was important that we exercise caution in lifting the lockdown and reopening the economy.
“On 1 May, we moved to alert level 4 and began the phased easing of the national lockdown,” Ramaphosa said.
“This was in line with our risk-adjusted strategy through which we sought to slow down the rate of infection and flatten the curve.
“We are now preparing for a further easing of the lockdown and a gradual opening of the economy.
“I will repeat what I have said before: if we lift the lockdown too abruptly and too quickly, we risk a rapid and unmanageable surge in infections.
“We will, therefore, continue to proceed cautiously, informed by the best available evidence and guided by the advice of local and international experts.
“Our goal is to steadily increase economic activity while putting measures in place to reduce the transmission of the virus and provide adequate care for those who become infected and need treatment.
“When I last addressed you, I outlined the five-level alert system that we have introduced to guide this process.
“At the time, the country was at alert level 5, which has the most stringent restrictions on movement and economic activity.
“Alert level 4 –which is the current level across the country –retains most of the lockdown regulations but permits the gradual opening up of certain parts of the economy.
“Alert levels 3 to 1 allow a progressively greater relaxation of restrictions.
“As I indicated then, some areas of the country may be designated at a particular alert level, while others may be designated at other levels.
“This would be done according to the rate of infection in an area and the state of readiness and the capacity of its health facilities to cope with treating infected people.
“For now, infections are mostly concentrated in a few metropolitan municipalities and districts in the country.
“It is important that we maintain stringent restrictions in these areas and restrict travel out of these areas to parts of the country with lower rates of infection,” Ramaphosa went on.
“We will immediately begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on alert level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4.
“We will make further announcements after the completion of the consultations
“In the coming days, we will also be announcing certain changes to level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and e-commerce and reduce restrictions on exercise.
“Some have questioned whether our approach in dealing with the coronavirus has been at the expense of the livelihoods of our people.
“Our strategic approach has been based on saving lives and preserving livelihoods.”
Ramaphosa announced that there would be changes to the level 4 lockdown regulations with regard to the types of businesses that can open their doors once more.
The President, unfortunately, provided no detail about the progressive reopening of the economy either under level 4 or under level 3.
South Africans will await further announcements with baited breath.