The DA has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to end the curfew imposed in a bid to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, open all sectors of the South African economy, allow for international travel and the return of a normal school week.
Government has already given an indication that it might move to level 1 of the national lockdown due to a decrease in Covid-19 infections and deaths, necessitating a return to normal activity.
In a statement on Tuesday, DA interim leader John Steenhuisen called for all restrictions to be ended immediately.
“Lockdown restrictions must be ended entirely and immediately, with the exception of mass gatherings in confined spaces. This severe and prolonged lockdown has plunged our economy, the lifeline of our society, into unprecedented crisis. We simply cannot afford the luxury of blanket restrictions on economic activity,” said Steenhuisen.
“Rather, government should trust people to take individual responsibility in line with clear safety guidelines. The lockdown has devastated South Africa’s economy, causing immense suffering, including widespread hunger. It has increased, rather than decreased, risk for millions of households and aggravated inequality, including educational inequality.”
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has also called on government to set a date in October for the opening of international travel.
Winde said people, especially in the Western Cape, have proven to be responsible during the pandemic and are taking individual responsibility by changing their behaviour.
“They are able to take responsibility whether they are service providers or patrons. The Western Cape government, for example, is also well prepared for Covid-19. We have shown that we are able to track and manage this virus and we continue to flatten the curve. Our province-wide hotspot management also continues.
“We are requesting that the government lifts the curb. We want a set date in October for the opening of international travel so that bookings can be made by international travellers who want to come to our country,” said Winde.
Last week, Ramaphosa told members of the SA National Editors’ Forum in a virtual conversation that the coronavirus command council had been in consultations with social partners about the next move.
South Africa has been under varying levels of the lockdown since March in a bid to combat the spread of Covid-19.
“This severe and prolonged lockdown has plunged our economy, the lifeline of our society, into unprecedented crisis,” Steenhuisen said.
Steenhuisen said the country now faced the prospect of a deep and prolonged depression as debt spirals out of control.
“Respected scientists, such as vaccinology Professor Shabir Mahdi and Dr Glenda Gray, both members of government’s ministerial advisory committee, have advised that lockdown is not serving any useful purpose and should be ended, with the exception of large gatherings in confined spaces,” said Steenhuisen.
In his newsletter, Steenhuisen said in calling for a full opening of the South African economy and schools, the DA was not denying the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 infections, “even though the scientific consensus is that this risk is low”.
“We need to get back to work, to school and to our lives – and we need to do it safely. But we need to do more than that. We also need to agree as a society to back the economic reforms that can get our economy growing again and that can roll back poverty, unemployment and inequality.
“These include urgently opening up the energy market to enable a reliable, affordable power supply and auctioning spectrum to bring down data costs, as well as opening the labour market for small business, to boost job creation.
“And finally, we must walk away from investment-killing policies such as the National Health Insurance), expropriation without compensation, asset prescription and the SA Reserve Bank nationalisation.”
Steenhuisen said “poverty is a deadly pandemic in its own right, requiring decisive action from our government that has so far not been forthcoming”.