File picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Businesses fear hard lockdown as Covid-19 infections on the rise

By Nathan Craig Time of article published Jan 10, 2021

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Durban - Grim thresholds were breached this week after three consecutive days of over 20 000 daily infections but businesses are fearful of a hard lockdown as regulations are to be reassessed on Friday.

Last month President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would move to adjusted lockdown level 3 which would remain in effect until January 15, for reassessment.

Ramaphosa said during his virtual address on Friday in his capacity as president of the ANC that Covid-19 was one of the country’s highest priorities, with the economy being its second.

“It threatens our economy, and the country is in the midst of a second wave that could prove deadlier than the first.”

According to the data released by the national department of health, there were 79 221 new infections across the country between Monday and Friday, with 24 308 from Kwazulu-natal. As of Friday, there were 212 226 active Covid-19 cases, and KZN constituted the largest case load of 85 065, which was close to double the second-largest total of 43 643 from Gauteng. During the same period, there have been 2 414 deaths, but 36 346 recoveries countrywide. KZN had 991 deaths and 5 782 recoveries. The national recovery rate was at 79.5%, which had also dropped from 80% where it stood for several months until this week. According to the data from the national health department and National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), this was the country’s worst week since March, in terms of deaths and daily infections. During the first wave, the highest daily infection total was 14 823 on July 14 with Friday’s being 21 980 – the country’s highest total thus far.

According to the NICD, since March, there were more cumulative cases within the age bracket of 30 to 34 years, of which, 82 415 were female, 56 222 males, with 1 072 cases where the gender was unknown. Across all age groups, the total of female cumulative cases was greater than male. But as businesses begin to reopen, fears are mounting that it will be a short-lived affair.

Alan Mukoki, chief executive of South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said businesses must be prepared for pain.

“Businesses will suffer if they are able to reopen. Every day you are hearing about higher infection rates and more businesses shutting down, such as the Hilton Hotel in central Durban. Infrastructure is also lacking, and it is a question of how long until the system collapses as there are not enough beds or medical capacity. The UK faced the same dilemma and went into a hard lockdown,” he said.

Mukoki said a relief restructuring and reprioritising of funding was dire.

“We still have billions of rands that were allocated by the Treasury, but not used. The current relief plan is poorly designed. Businesses are able to borrow funds to shore up losses, but they must now come up with ways to pay back. Many find it easier to retrench staff, then try to figure out ways to pay back loans, and if you can’t, the banks take you to court. Relief must be relief. We are in a crisis, and government needs to be innovative.”

Sunday Tribune

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