Conflicting messages on Covid-19 dangers blamed for Western Cape resurgence, chance of stricter lockdown
Cape Town – Good secretary-general Brett Herron believes Premier Alan Winde now considering the need to possibly reintroduce stricter lockdown rules can be blamed on the conflicting messages the DA has been sending out on the dangers the coronavirus posed since the lockdown started, essentially ’’reaping what it has sowed’’.
Winde says there was an established Covid-19 resurgence in the province and the need to get tougher on people not obeying safety regulations.
Winde and a team of experts are meeting again on Friday to discuss an effective strategy to combat the Covid-19 resurgence in certain areas (such as the Garden Route, Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha), with the option of localised ’’mini lockdowns’’ being mentioned.
The Covid-19 ’’circuit-breaker’’ model rules are typically implemented for a limited amount of time to reverse a resurgence by, for example, curbing any ’’superspreader’’ event as well as weddings and funerals by issuing no permits.
Herron told IOL on Monday: ’’The thing that makes me angry about the Western Cape government and the DA response is the conflicting messages that they have delivered to people in the Western Cape and to the country over the last six to seven months.
’’I’ve raised it in the provincial parliament with the premier that their messaging undermines public confidence in the lockdown plan. On the one hand, right from the beginning when the lockdown was introduced, there was criticism from the DA and Alan Winde about the restrictions.
“’Members of the DA mocked some of those restrictions – on exercise, on access to beaches, the restrictions on alcohol trade, and they jumped the gun and tried to find their own path on the cigarette ban. So there was this constant undermining of the national lockdown protocols.
’’About a month ago when there was an alert issued by the national government around a resurgence in the Western Cape, the Western Cape government dismissed and criticised that alert and now, a month later, and the Western Cape government is now considering whether it has the legal authority to introduce its own form of a lockdown.
’’I think the DA has been reckless. They have exploited the political opportunity that has arisen from the hard lockdown that the national government implemented.
’’They have used it to drive a wedge and now, as the DA government in the Western Cape, are having to consider introducing their own lockdown to clamp down on the so-called second wave.
“This could all have been avoided if they had got on board with the consistent message that this virus is dangerous.’’
Asked if he thought a mini-lockdown was essential, Herron said: “We have to follow the advice of scientists and health experts. We need to contain the spread of this virus and avoid what we are seeing in other parts of the world.
“If the health experts and scientists are saying we need to contain community transmission by introducing additional restrictions, then we must do so. This could have been avoided if we didn’t have a (provincial) government that was ahead of the curve regarding the lifting of restrictions and consistently challenging those conditions as creating a second pandemic around economic loss.
“So now they are in a position where they have almost reaped what they have sown and have to introduce new lockdowns and restrictions to contain the virus.
’’They are not assisted by their own political party and its leadership. DA leader John Steenhuisen has said the only thing the lockdown achieved was the devastation of our economy and it doesn’t matter if we are at level 1, 2 or 5, there should not be any lockdown at all.
’’So you have this Democratic Alliance split personality almost, where the national leader says we don’t need lockdowns at all, that they are unconstitutional and an irrational restriction on our economic and social activities. But now the government in the Western Cape is suddenly feeling the pressure on our health system are talking of introducing local restrictions.’’
Western Cape government responds
Bianca Capazorio, the spokesperson for Premier Winde, has denied that the province has downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus but stressed that did not support a prolonged lockdown.
“The Western Cape supported the initial lockdown and used this time to prepare our healthcare systems ahead of the peak. Our campaign messages have always been safety focused and we have never downplayed the seriousness of this virus which has claimed over 4 000 lives in this province alone,” she said.
“We are deeply aware of the impact of this virus. However, a prolonged and indefinite lockdown is a blunt instrument which had a devastating impact on jobs and the economy in the province. Our message has always been clear: we support the reopening of the economy with the correct safety protocols in place,” said Capazorio.
“Due to the resurgence in cases we are currently experiencing in the province as a result of people no longer taking safety protocols seriously, the Western Cape Government has called for behaviour change and stricter enforcement which is the responsible thing to do in light of the increasing number of hospitalisations we are seeing in the Western Cape.”
* This article has been updated to afford the Western Cape government the right of reply.