Western Cape Premier Alan Winde Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Western Cape premier to request Dlamini Zuma allow all businesses to open after passing Covid-19 peak

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Aug 7, 2020

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Cape Town – ’’For as long as the Western Cape can assure access to health facilities for all Covid-19 patients, all businesses should be allowed to open safely, following clear health guidelines designed to slow the spread of Covid-19.“

With the economic disaster gaining momentum and thousands of jobs being lost, this was the stance adopted by the Western Cape government after a Western Cape cabinet bosberaad, where they discussed the second, equally serious pandemic of unemployment spreading across the province.

’’Covid-19 is not going away in the next week or next month – it is likely to be with us for at least another 18 months. The sooner we all adapt to the new normal, the better.

“In doing so, we must reject the false dichotomy that we have to pick between providing healthcare to those infected with Covid-19 and keeping the economy open. If we work together with the private sector, and we intervene smartly in addressing harms, we can do both.

’’Given our capacity to respond to Covid-19, the fact that we have passed our peak, and that we have put measures in place to support businesses so that they can reopen safely, there remains no rational reason to keep businesses closed. If they can open safely, let them.

’’On behalf of the Western Cape government, I will now engage the Minister of Cooperative Governance, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, on this position – as the National Government is responsible for the National Disaster Management Act.

’’I have already requested a meeting to do so,“ said Winde, who announced on Friday that the Western Cape has recorded an additional 34 deaths, bringing the total number of Covid-19-related deaths in the province to 3 347, while the province has 8 631 new cases, with a total of 97 506 confirmed cases and 85 528 recoveries.

’’Our Department of Economic Development and Tourism and Department of Health have worked on detailed health and safety guidelines for businesses so that there is clarity on what is expected of them in our fight against Covid-19.

’’We have responded to 3 972 direct enquiries for assistance from businesses in the Western Cape and have begun the process of rolling out 11 000 Covid-19 Business Safety Kits in the province to ensure that businesses are properly supported in this regard.

’’We have not stopped there. We have also created a platform where employees can report businesses where these health and safety guidelines are not being followed. To date, we have resolved 1122 complaints relating to workplace safety.“

Commenting on the domestic sale of alcohol, Winde said: “We fully agree that alcohol-related harms are a major problem in our province and country.

’’Our provincial data points to this. When the domestic sale of alcohol was suspended during the lockdown, and then again recently, the number of trauma cases dropped immediately. But we cannot view this in isolation of the other consequences of a continued ‘ban’ on the sale of alcohol is causing.

’’Wine industry body Vinpro estimates that the initial nine-week ban on local sales and five-week ban on exports will result in 18 000 jobs lost, and 80 wineries and 350 grape producers closing their businesses over the next year.

“Stats SA food and beverage data for April and May shows a decline in revenue for his sector of 94% and 87% respectively from 2019 revenues.

’’The impact on this temporary ban is not just felt in our agricultural and farming communities, but also in our tourism and hospitality sector. Indeed, we are also the tourism and hospitality capital of South Africa, with over 200 000 jobs supported by tourism in our province.

’’The reality of this sector is that restaurants rely on alcohol sales to remain profitable. If properly licensed establishments are not allowed to sell alcohol on site, they will not be able to remain financially viable…

’’We must also remember that the suspension of alcohol was not just because it provided harm in general. Rather, the stated reason is that alcohol-related cases were undermining the ability of healthcare systems to provide care to Covid-19 patients. Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said as much recently in court papers.

’’This is not so in our province. The Western Cape has passed its peak and currently has adequate platform capacity, to the extent that we will soon be considering whether all our field hospitals need to remain open.

’’Given this fact, and the dire consequences of this ban on the livelihoods of our people, we can no longer support the continued suspension on the domestic sale of alcohol in the Western Cape.“

Winde added: ’’Businesses that employ tens of thousands of people are buckling under continued restrictions on economic activity, low confidence, and reduced demand.

’’It is estimated that we will lose 10.2% in Gross Value Add, R720 million in revenue, and a staggering 167 000 jobs.

’’That is nearly two hundred thousand people – many in vulnerable communities – who will no longer have an income to put food on the table. And their dependants and children will suffer too.

’’This should give every decision-maker in this country sleepless nights. For many people in our province and country, a job is the difference between putting food on the table and starving. This is not an exaggeration, but a reality in our country.

’’International organisation Oxfam has identified South Africa as an emerging hunger hot spot, saying many of the country’s poor would be ’tipped over the edge’ by the inability to earn or job losses as a result of the pandemic.

“This is corroborated by what we are seeing in our communities in the Western Cape.

’’Higher levels of unemployment will impact food security, the nutrition of adults and children, violent crime, and will cost lives now and in the future too.

’’That is why we have maintained that we should not view our response to Covid-19 as a zero-sum game. We can ready our healthcare systems to respond and provide care, and we can open our economy safely at the same time.“

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