Not just our lives threatened by virus, but our livelihoods – DA on extended lockdown

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The DA is in sharp disagreement with President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to extend the country's lockdown.

Other political parties mostly welcomed the decision announced on Thursday night.  

Ramaphosa said the lockdown, which was due to end 16 April would now be in effect until 30 April.

The intervention came into effect two weeks ago and is aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected millions across the globe and killed more than 90 000 people.

In South Africa, 18 people have died, while 1934 others have tested positive for the virus.

Mistake 

Ramaphosa warned that if the lockdown was abruptly lifted there would be a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the virus.

However, the DA, which has cautioned against the decision to extend the lockdown, said it was a "mistake" to pit the lives of people against their livelihoods.

"This is a false dilemma. Rather, the difficult trade-offs to be made are between lives lost or damaged by Covid-19, and lives lost or damaged by the drastic measures to contain its spread," said the DA’s interim leader John Steenhuisen in a statement following Ramaphosa’s address.

READ: Lockdown has worked says Ramaphosa as NICD head warns of evolving epidemic

Steenhuisen also raised several issues including a lack of data and modelling, to show that a lockdown was an effective method to curb the spread of the pandemic.

"The resulting economic fallout now means that it is not only lives which are threatened by the virus, but livelihoods by our economic and financial collapse as a result of further lockdown regulations," said Steenhuisen.

He further suggested a series of amendments to current regulations, which he said would make the lockdown more sustainable and credible.

READ | Debt freeze may be needed to give Africa a fighting chance - World Bank economist

These included the urgent relaxation on essential goods listings, ramping up testing for Covid-19, for BBBEE requirements for SMME aid to be scrapped, for parliamentary oversight to be done on the lockdown, for the national wage bill to be amended, along with the national budget to fund relief efforts.

Repurposed 

"The President and the Minister of Finance cannot justify billion-Rand SOE (state owned enterprise) bailouts footed by the taxpayer when the very industries for which they work are at risk of shutting down as a result of the lockdown," said Steenhuisen.

The amounts set aside in the current budget to fund SOE bailouts, such as the R16.4 billion for SAA must be repurposed and released into the economy in the form of business relief, added the DA interim leader.

Steenhuisen also said his party has been working with industry experts, health policy experts and following international best practice models to compile a lockdown grid to outline the level of regulation which should be applied at different stages of the Covid-19 infection in the country.

READ | UIF claims site sees 800% spike in interest, with first ‘corona payouts’ coming in days

He said this would allow for the lockdown to become sustainable while ensuring the country’s already ailing economy doesn’t completely collapse.

"It will also assist in keeping the economy moving, protecting jobs and livelihoods whilst ensuring that we continue to contain the virus," said Steenhuisen.

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