Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, says that South Africa should be able to move to a level 3 lockdown ‘rapidly’, provided it avoids a sharp increase in the levels of infections of Covid-19.
Level 3 would enable things like limited air travel, and the sale of alcohol, subject to limited hours, namely Mondays to Wednesday, between 08h00 and 12h00.
The minister was addressing the Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry and Competition, together with the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Small Business, Tourism, Employment and Labour on Friday, 1 May.
Patel said that, should the country avoid a sharp increase in the levels of infections with the return to work of large numbers of workers, and is able to expand testing and healthcare facilities, the economy could shift to level 3 as soon as possible.
The minister told the committees that the country does not need to stay at level 4, which commenced on Friday 1 May, for a specific number of weeks but, can move rapidly to a lower level should risks be mitigated.
The bad news, however, is that South Africa reported its highest number daily infections on Wednesday – 354 cases – since testing began.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said in a statement on Thursday evening that there are now 5,647 positive Covid-19 cases in South Africa.
This is up by 297 from the 5,350 Covid-19 cases announced on Wednesday.
The good news is that there have been more than 1,000 recoveries to date, and relatively few deaths when compared to countries in Europe, and the US.
The committees heard that the initial return to work will be based on the national level, but will progressively be expanded to provincial and district level, enabling workplaces to adapt to the level of infections and healthcare readiness in localities.
Patel said that the Covid 19 pandemic will impact the South African economy in deep ways due to the closure of many companies during level 5.
“Work is still underway to establish the extent of the impact. We are keen to restart as many economic areas as possible.”
The estimated impact on the economy varies at the moment, and will be driven by the trajectory of the virus both in South Africa and globally.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that the gross domestic product (GDP) will fall by 5.8% in 2020.
The South African Reserve Bank estimates that the GDP will fall by 6.1% in 2020. The Industrial Development Corporation estimates that the GDP will fall by 6.3% in 2020.
Level 3 lockdown
South Africa is currently at level 4 lockdown restrictions as part of the country’s risk-based approach to dealing with the coronavirus.
According to minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, the lockdown and its various new levels are not a tool used to eradicate the virus, but rather used to delay the peak of the virus.
In terms of the proposed lockdown policy published on Saturday (25 April), changes under level 3 will include the following:
More people returning to work
The following workers will be allowed back at work:
- Automotive manufacturing, including components, scaling up in phases to 100% employment;
- Stationery production, scaling up to 100% employment;
- Cement and other construction material, scaling up to 100% employment;
- Steel and other metal manufacturing, scaling up in phases to 100% employment;
- Clothing, textiles and footwear, scaling up in phases to 100% employment;
- Other chemicals manufacturing, scaling up in phases to 100% employment;
- All other manufacturing, scaling up in phases to 50% employment.
- Commercial real estate permitted;
- All mining scaling up towards 100% employment.;
- Gardening and swimming pool services.
More items sold in stores
Retailers will be allowed to sell the following items (in addition to what is already being sold):
- Hardware, components and supplies for sale to the general public;
- Stationery and all books;
- All household appliances;
- All clothing, home textiles and footwear;
- Motor vehicles sales, subject to directions;
- Off-premises consumption of alcohol, subject to limited hours.
- Postal services and courier services (i.e. eCommerce) related to transport of retail goods will be permitted, subject to directions.
The following personal freedom will be allowed:
- Limited domestic air travel, with a restriction on the number of flights per day and authorisation based on the reason for travel and subject to the ports of entry arrangements;
- Laundry and dry-cleaning services permitted;
- Walking, jogging and cycling permitted.