Ramaphosa: government mulling further relaxation of the lockdown
JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has given the strongest indication yet that the government was considering further lowering the coronavirus lockdown measures as evidence showed that the pandemic would remain a threat to global public health for some time.
In his weekly newsletter yesterday, Ramaphosa said the government wanted to lift some of the restrictions that have all but collapsed the country’s economy.
He said the gradual lifting of the regulations would ease pressure on the economy, but quickly warned that life would not be the same after the lockdown.
“Our goal is to steadily reduce the alert level by keeping the rate of infection down and getting our health system ready for the inevitable increase in cases,” Ramaphosa said.
“As the lockdown is gradually eased, life will slowly return. But it will not be life as we knew it before.”
South Africa imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in March, forcing many industries to close as the government battled to contain the spread and prepared the public health system for the eventual peak of the pandemic.
Thus far the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa has passed the 10000 mark, with at least 200 deaths.
This month, the government eased the lockdown measures from Level 5 to Level 4 to allow certain businesses to reopen after six weeks. The measure saw at least 1.5million people returning to work.
Ramaphosa said experts were now warning of a “second wave” of infections as public life resumed, meaning Covid-19 would remain a threat to global public health for some time.
“We must therefore be prepared to continue to live with the coronavirus among us for a year or even more,” he said. “We must be prepared for a new reality in which the fight against Covid-19 becomes part of our daily existence.”
Business lobby groups have piled on pressure as they called on the government to accelerate the phased approach to the restart of full economic activity and save jobs affected by Covid-19.
Data has revealed that a prolonged Covid-19 pandemic could shave off almost 17percent from South Africa’s economic growth, leaving more than 4million people jobless in the formal and informal sectors despite the government’s stimulus package.
Companies such as British American Tobacco have opted for talks instead of litigation to persuade the government to ease the restrictions.
Intellidex’s Peter Attard Montalto said the market was eyeing a reduction to Level 3 as early as this week.
“The reduction now to Level 3 could happen this Thursday, or maybe more likely the week after. Markets are likely to get overexcited - not seeing that this is not sustainable,” Attard Montalto said.
“Overall there is still no clear strategy from the government on how and when - based on either medical or economic drivers - the country or metros should be moved between levels.”