Covid-19: 'We must not add to this crisis' - Winde's plea to Ramaphosa over possible lockdown

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Western Cape Premier Alan Winde
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde
PHOTO: Brenton Geach/Gallo Images
  • Restaurant owners are pleading with the government not to impose harsher lockdown restrictions, as the industry is already on its knees.
  • The panic comes after the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa and Botswana.
  • The Western Cape government has also cautioned against harsher restrictions.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa not to add to the country’s Covid-19 crisis by giving effect to a worsening job and humanitarian crisis "that will undoubtedly cost lives too".

Winde said in a statement on Sunday that the province was guided by its position that a balance was needed when responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, in order to save both lives and livelihoods.

Winde’s warning comes just moments before he and the nation’s eight other premiers met with Ramaphosa on Sunday to discuss the impact of the new Omicron coronavirus variant first detected in Botswana and South Africa.

Winde said: 

In the President’s Coordination Council called for today (Sunday), I will maintain our position that we need to save both lives and jobs. We must not add to this crisis by giving effect to a worsening job and humanitarian crisis that will undoubtedly cost lives too. We must be guided by expert advice and sound data, and we must always ask ourselves how any proposed action will impact our poorest residents who need jobs to be able to put food on the table for their families.

The variant has led to complete chaos as countries shut their borders to travellers from southern Africa.

Soon after borders were closed to African travellers, countries worldwide closed borders to each other and implemented strict quarantines.

Winde described the global travel bans as a hammer blow to the province’s major job-creating sector, "precisely when we needed a recovery, to claw back jobs lost over the last 19 months".

"This is extremely distressing to me, especially because the WHO has made it clear that travel bans are not an effective response. Our economy needs help urgently, and that is why I call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce an emergency financial support package for this sector so that we save jobs," Winde said.

Restaurant owners have also cautioned against stricter restrictions.

They say they want the government to take responsibility for its failure to prepare the healthcare system for the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, instead of imposing arbitrary restrictions that will cripple an industry already on its knees.

CEO of the Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA), Wendy Alberts, said the government should not impose stricter lockdowns as both the tourism and restaurant industries – dependent on each other – would be further weakened.

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa
PHOTO:Tebogo Letsie

"Our sector is a major employer of the most vulnerable category of workers, who have lived through the extreme stress of having their employment switched on and off at the whim of the government, without any warning.

"The travel restrictions that have been imposed by foreign governments following the detection of the Omicron variant of coronavirus are a brutal setback for an industry on its knees after several rounds of restrictions," Alberts said.

She added that the government should not exacerbate this crisis by adding restrictions of its own to the unjustified and unscientific panic responses of foreign governments.

FOLLOW LIVE| Covid-19: Australia detects first Omicron infections, US praises SA scientists

Alberts said that RASA had received a response to a letter to the Presidency, which stated that the restaurant would not be consulted on measures to manage the fourth wave.

"The government cannot shrug off its responsibility to protect the economy by preparing for the fourth wave, which experts have long predicted, while it clamps down on businesses that provide employment and a viable future to thousands of people.

"We call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to stop the destruction of jobs and provide a clear pathway out of the endless cycle of lockdowns and harsh restrictions."

Meanwhile, the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) says it is concerned over rumours of another impending ban on alcohol.

In a statement, BASA said its members would continue implementing Covid-19 safety measures.

"The industry is only now starting to recover and looking forward to December trade, with the festive season being the busiest time for the tourism industry which the alcohol industry relies on," it said.

Previous alcohol bans had a devastating impact on the alcohol industry, with 14.7% of projected sales volumes for 2020-21 being lost (a total of 1 262.7 million litres). R42.2 billion was lost in retail sales and there was a R60.7-billion loss to the GDP. The total excise income tax loss was R10.2 billion, with just over 233 000 jobs being put at risk.

City of Cape Town mayco member for economic opportunities James Vos said: "I fully understand these leaders' desire to protect their citizens from this new variant, which led to their panicked imposition of travel bans."

"As many international experts and scientists have strongly emphasised, though, you cannot lock out these variants through travel bans, and it is clear from data now emerging that this variant has already been found in a number of different countries across the world."


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