Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen, says that he will on Monday (13 April), submit a ‘smart lockdown’ working paper to president Cyril Ramaphosa which proposes a gradual phasing out of the current ‘hard’ lockdown currently in play.
President Ramaphosa extended the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread Covi-19 outbreak by two weeks on Thursday last week, until the end of April.
Economists have warned of the crushing effect the lockdown will have on the country’s finances. Economists Jameel Ahmad and Dawie Roodt have predicted that the South African GDP will contract between 4% and 6% in the second quarter of 2020.
Steenhuisen said in a live broadcast on Facebook on Monday, that the ‘smart lockdown’ would supplement government’s coronavirus response effort, “while protecting the South African economy and the livelihoods which depend on it”.
He stressed that as a working paper, the document can be easily updated and amended to mirror the changing circumstances surrounding South Africa’s fight against Covid-19.
“Managing Covid-19 will require a marathon, not a sprint. Realistically, South Africa may have to contain the coronavirus right up until a vaccine is widely available in 18-24 months’ time. We must hope for a shorter period but plan pragmatically for a long one,” he said.
“Under a hard lockdown we are heading toward an economic depression. It is going to be very hard to fund an adequate health response over that time period, while also bridging poor households and small businesses to the other side.
“Therefore, we need to contain this virus over the coming year and beyond in such a way that as many of us as possible can get back to work,” the politician said.
The DA said that there is mounting support globally for a phased strategy and moving between different stages of restriction.
“It would be imprudent to call for a complete easing of all restrictions relating to the current lockdown, as it would likely risk a sudden spike in infections.
“At the same time, continued hard lockdown conditions will increase the number of unemployed citizens, and close businesses which will not be in a position to reopen after the crisis,” said Steenhuisen.
According to the DA, the lockdown in its current form is not a feasible approach to contain the coronavirus in South Africa.
“In our context it is impossible for individuals living in townships and informal settlements to self-isolate, to practice the level of hygiene necessary to kill the virus, and to acquire the protective equipment necessary to keep the virus at bay,” it said.
South Africa cannot afford a hard lockdown, said Steenhuisen.
“The economic repercussions of a hard and extended lockdown will be disastrous for the South African economy, and thousands of taxpaying citizens will emerge from it unemployed as a result.
“Furthermore, South Africa does not have the fiscal space necessary to accommodate the severe assault a hard lockdown will unleash on our economy.”
How does the smart lockdown work?
The DA said its smart lockdown approach functions similarly to a load shedding grid or the different stages of water restrictions previously seen during the Western Cape drought.
It provides different stages of lockdown relative to the national coronavirus infection rate for every sector of the South African economy and society.
The complete working paper can be found here.
In addition, the DA said that its Covid-19 strategy for managing lives and livelihoods includes:
- Moving between lockdown stages in response to what the data is telling us e.g. about new daily infections and hospital capacity.
- Massive rollout of testing, tracking, tracing, and treatment coupled with transparent reporting of data.
- Massive build of healthcare capacity coupled with transparent reporting of progress data.
- Enabling and strict enforcement of the wearing of protective face masks in all public areas.
- The roll out of a comprehensive public education campaign: hygiene, diagnosis, handling.
- Bold economic stimulus/relief package.
- Sweeping reforms in government and to our economy.
The smart lockdown is comprised of four stages:
- Red: Stage 4 (hard lockdown)
- Orange: Stage 3 (soft lockdown)
- Yellow: Stage 2 (soft open)
- Green: Stage 1 (open)
“By implementing the smart lockdown, South Africa can not only continue to contain the coronavirus outbreak, but ensure the revival of our ailing economy,” said Steenhuisen.
“Through our smart lockdown, we believe that we can protect both lives and livelihoods, ensuring that South Africa defeats the coronavirus and emerges from the outbreak with a capable and competitive economy which will sustain and create jobs, and ultimately pay for the provision of health care services at the scale required to defeat the coronavirus.”