The D-Day for the extended national state of disaster on Thursday has prompted concerned parties to push for an end to the imposed lockdown by December. This as President Cyril Ramaphosa gears to address the nation on Thursday.
The national state of disaster was declared in March and was last extended in August. Concerns over the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 infections, since the daily rate stabilised in August have been drowned out by calls for Ramaphosa to announce a date for the reopening of the country, citing the devastation caused by the abrupt shutdown of industries crucial to the economy.
Governance expert Professor Alex van den Heever said the country no longer needed to operate under the National Disaster Act. He said its status regarding the pandemic could, at this stage, be managed through the Health Act, in addition to some essential support services still relevant to the remaining Covid-19 healthcare needs.
A recent report authored by Prof Ivan Turok, National Research Foundation research professor at the University of the Free State (UFS), and Justin Visagie, a research specialist with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) analysed the impact of the crisis on different locations in Visagie & Turok 2020.
It found the lockdown deepened disparities between poor and wealthier areas, especially that between urban and rural communities. Overall, the economic crisis hit poor urban communities much harder than the suburbs, the report found, resulting in a rate of unemployment in June of 42-43% in townships and informal settlements compared with 24% in the suburbs.
The collapse posed a challenge for the recovery and required government to mobilise resources from the whole of society. According to Van den Heever, South Africa’s weakened government didn’t have the administrative capability to manage another extension of lockdown. “Government needs the economy to function in order to survive.
“It’s not a question of life over profit. The point is that this is our livelihood,” he argued.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called for the reopening of the economy since the ending of Level 3 in August. As Ramaphosa’s scheduled address approaches, DA leader John Steenhuisen called for Ramaphosa to end the lockdown on Thursday.
“Cabinet must resist the urge to once again extend the state of disaster, which is due to end on Thursday. South Africa’s prolonged lockdown must end immediately and completely. Indeed, both should have ended five months ago. SA’s epidemiological models massively exaggerated the size of the Covid-19 risk.”
While European countries began to reopen domestic economic activity in August, last week the New Zealand government announced the downgrading of its lockdown restrictions to Level 1. Economic activity in that country expected to increase from 65% under Level 2 to 85%, according to The Guardian.
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