COVID-19 has dealt yet another major blow to South Africa’s growth prospects for 2021 as the third wave of infections continued to worsen amid a worryingly slow vaccine roll-out.
President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday ramped up the country’s lockdown to Alert Level 4 for 14 days.
Ramaphosa imposed a two-week total ban on the sale of alcohol, both for home and on-site consumption, with all non-essential establishments having to close by 8pm.
Restaurants and other eateries will be permitted to sell food only for take-away or delivery.
Ramaphosa said that because of the burden of infections in Gauteng, travel in and out of the province for leisure purposes will be prohibited. Gauteng now accounts for more than 60 percent of new cases in the country.
Ramaphosa said because the new variant of Covid-19 was more contagious, the measures that had been adopted so far may no longer be sufficient to reduce the rate of transmission.
The country’s Covid-19 cases have been driven by Beta variant, and the Delta variant that was first identified in India, which is easily transmissible and more contagious.
All gatherings – including political, religious, cultural and social gatherings – have been prohibited, except for funerals and cremations, where attendance may not exceed 50 people.
The curfew was reduced by one hour from 9pm to 4am.
The Beer Association of SA (Basa) said the 14-day alcohol ban will be the death knell for businesses and jobs.
“We have repeatedly communicated to government how the previous three alcohol bans have devastated thousands of small businesses across the beer value chain, leaving business owners, their employees and families destitute,” it said. “Many more businesses will now find themselves on the brink of closure as a result of the latest 14-day ban and no financial relief being made available by government.”
The economy has been forecast to grow 4.2 percent this year from a deep contraction of 7 percent last year.
Old Mutual Investments chief economist Johann Els said the government was doing its utmost to prevent the economy from experiencing the damage it did last year.
Els said that, overall, the latest measures will have little impact on the economic growth forecast, as they were only for two weeks.
“It’s too soon to make any adjustment on our economic growth forecast. All of these measures do have an impact on the economy. There is some impact, but it’s difficult to measure at this point,” Els said.
“However, there is a lot of uncertainty, and it will hurt confidence. Lack of confidence will also affect the economy,” he said.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE