On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce government’s plans to ease regulations that have been put in place to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus through the national lockdown.
The high infection rate of the virus prompted government to implement a hard lockdown, which was extended by a further two weeks and is expected to be lifted at the end of April.
Unlike most countries that also implemented social distancing and lockdown measures, South Africans have for the past five weeks been subjected to some of the most draconian measures, including a ban on alcohol, cigarettes and, just recently, the sale of hot food.
The president is expected to ease some of these restrictions and announce a road map towards relaxing the lockdown measures which are, in essence, expected to last for the foreseeable future.
The announcement will take into consideration proposals made by chairpersons of the five Cabinet clusters – economic sectors, investment, employment and infrastructure development; governance, state capacity and institutional development; social protection, community and human development; international cooperation, trade and security; as well as justice, crime prevention and security – during a virtual meeting held on Monday.
On Tuesday, Ramaphosa said government “will take a risk-adjusted approach” to restarting the economy, while limiting the spread of the virus.
He warned that abrupt reopening could lead to an uncontrollable resurgence of infections, a warning that has been echoed by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said a rapid relaxation of lockdown measures could trigger an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen earlier in the month proposed a “smart phase strategy” for the lockdown, involving four stages, in the hope of circumventing an economic collapse.
His proposed strategy works similarly to a load shedding schedule. The different stages in the DA’s “sustainable and flexible” lockdown plan
range from the strictest (red), to the most relaxed (green) lockdown phase, which nevertheless notes social distancing as being compulsory.
Steenhuisen said the proposal was still a working paper, meaning it could easily be augmented.
It remains unclear whether Ramaphosa will take a leaf off the DA’s proposed plan, however, an easing of the current strict measure is expected.
While the lockdown has managed to curb the exponential spread of the virus, unrest among the most vulnerable over a lack of sustenance has threatened to curtail the gains made so far. To appease these dejected masses, Ramaphosa is expected to reopen some industries, however, within the confines of not risking to reverse the gains made.
Hospitality services, bars, malls, theatres, shopping complexes, religious and places of worship are expected to remain shut, with relaxation expected for activities that are linked to essential services such as health, infrastructure and agriculture.
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