Business concerns rise on looming Covid-19 third wave
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JOHANNESBURG - THE BUSINESS sector has expressed willingness to assist the government with the acquisition and distribution of vaccines as concerns rise about the looming third wave of Covid-19 infections in South Africa, which could dent nascent growths of economic recovery.
Rising infections could result in the introduction of tighter lockdown restrictions to curb the spread, further derailing the expected economic rebound as other economies reopen.
Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) yesterday said that it was concerned with the increase in Covid-19 related hospitalisations and positive tests in the Free State and Gauteng.
Data from the Department of Health shows a rising average of daily Covid-19 cases, rising from 8 593 cases the past week to 12 531 cases in the past seven days.
BLSA said these suggested that the country was facing a third wave of the pandemic, which would require interventions to reduce the risk of transmission of the disease.
It said where restrictions in economic activity were required, these should be clearly explained with clear end dates to allow businesses to plan properly.
“Of course, a comprehensive vaccine programme is urgent. Business remains committed to supporting the government with vaccine acquisition and distribution,” it said
“BLSA is a willing partner to the government in considering options to reduce transmission and in assessing the economic impact of such options.”
The Cabinet yesterday was briefed about the increase and the application of necessary response measures to curb the spread.
South Africa’s Phase 2 of Covid-19 vaccination drive is set to begin on Monday targeting people over the age of 60.
More than 435 000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated so far with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while the Pfizer vaccine has also been procured for Phase 2.
Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) chief executive James Formby said rolling out vaccinations as soon as possible was important to truly restart the South African economy, particularly for industries like tourism and hospitality, which had been very hard hit.
“What does give us optimism is that we are stocking up on Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines and that systems are currently being put in place to roll out the vaccination process nationwide.
“By year-end, substantial numbers of people could be vaccinated. This will help shift the narrative of the country as a place to be avoided while its people face severe ‘red list’ travel restrictions, ” Formby said.
The South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) said there was an urgent need to intensify the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.
Alcohol bans as a result of lockdown restrictions have had a cumulative impact on the alcohol industry, putting at risk at least 200 200 jobs supported by the alcohol value chain as sales revenue fell by R36.3 billion.
Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi said the recent rise in the infection rate was a great concern and called on the government to step up the vaccination programme.
“The industry has repeatedly said it is willing to provide whatever logistical assistance the government requires to achieve this huge operational undertaking,” Mngadi said.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday that South Africa had not hit its third wave in spite of a 46 percent increase in cases in the last two weeks.