Uasa lauds gradual lifting of lockdown, DA urges scrapping of some rules
Johannesburg - The decision by the goverment to incrementally lift a national lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19 is a difficult but necessary one to allow some crucial economic activity to recommence, trade union Uasa said.
Expressing largely similar sentiments, the Democratic Alliance reiterated its general support for the lockdown, but said the regulations around it should make life easier for citizens, especially essential workers, to access goods and services.
The goverment effected the lockdown from March 27, allowing only essential services to operate in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the world. Initially set for a 21-day period to April 16, the government extended the national shutdown by another two weeks to the end of the month.
On Thursday, cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said South Africa would now start easing the extended lockdown in an orderly, incremental manner.
Uasa applauded the move, saying South Africa was in no position to lock down indefinitely, given a sickly economy which has largely grown at below one percent per annum for more than a decade.
"With our economy already in dire straits before the virus made its appearance, we need to gradually normalise the situation," the trade union's spokesman Stanford Mazhindu said in a statement.
"It is a difficult decision that can only work when the most vulnerable are protected, while the stronger workers surge forward to save the country from bankruptcy. The revised regulations mean that more people can now become active in the economy again to earn a living for their families."
He said Uasa looked forward to the results of cabinet’s discussion next Monday on a socio-economic recovery plan after the lockdown.
On its part, the DA said it welcomed certain aspects of the amended lockdown regulations as published on Thursday, saying the decision to start opening up sectors of the economy under strictly controlled conditions was in line with its call for a "smart lockdown".
It however urged the government to reconsider some regulations still in place.
"Whilst we support the lockdown, we need regulations that make life easier for citizens, and especially essential workers, to access goods and services and to reduce the risk of mass hunger," the party's interim leader John Steenhuisen said.
"The lockdown will only work if it promotes collaboration amongst citizens. Certain regulations do not."
He said some regulations around essential goods and services, as well as the blanket ban on cigarettes and alcohol "seem to have less to do with combating the spread of the virus than with stamping down the authority of the state".
"The same can be said for the ban on neighbourhood watches. The longer these prohibitions remain part of the lockdown regulations, the bigger the chance of a widespread public backlash. Every regulation must be measured against its efficacy in actually defeating Covid19," Steenhuisen said.
There was already rising public resistance to some aspects of the lockdown, with incidents of looting becoming more widespread over the past week, he noted.
"For any kind of lockdown plan to succeed, it is crucial that we first secure the buy-in and compliance of the public. And this is only possible when they are treated as responsible adults, and respected as citizens," said Steenhuisen.
The African Christina Democratic Party said it welcomed changes to lockdown regulations affecting transportation, funerals, the movement of children, and allowing for other economic activities, but called on the government to allow more economic activity.
ACDP finance spokesman Steve Swart said the party agreed with economists calling for a Covid-19 fiscal stimulus package, saying such relief should be part of a supplementary or emergency budget to be tabled in Parliament.
"The ACDP has broadly supported the government's lockdown measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus," Swart said.
"We appreciate, however, that this step has had a devastating impact on businesses and household incomes, as well as on the economy as the whole."
"It is, in our view, critical to allow as many economic activities to take place as possible, while ensuring that measures are in place to mitigate the
health risks associated with these activities," he added.
African News Agency/ANA
* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak visit IOL's #Coronavirus trend page
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the government's 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or go to SA Coronavirus for more information.