The Democratic Alliance(DA) notes President Ramaphosa’s announcement of a move to Lockdown Level 2… writes DA Leader John Steenhuisen. And while we welcome this easing of restrictions, we call on him to go further and commit to an end date for all lockdown restrictions as well as the State of Disaster.
The only possible reason for any further restrictions would be to allow everyone over the age of 18 the chance to get vaccinated. And since the 18-35 year-old group have had access to the vaccine since 20 August, this deadline must now be well within our sight. At the very latest, this should happen by mid-November, which would give this age cohort a full 12 weeks to get both jabs.
This deadline needs to be announced now so that businesses affected by lockdown restrictions can plan accordingly. It is not something that can be decided and announced at the last minute, as this would put even more businesses and jobs in jeopardy. If business owners know that there will be no more restrictions and curfews on the 15th of November, they can try to make plans to bridge their business over the period until then.
If President Ramaphosa does not think this is what needs to happen, he must give his and his government’s reasons why not. South Africans have made extraordinary sacrifices in order to comply with restrictions and regulations that are seldom explained or justified. The president needs to take citizens into his confidence and let them know precisely why these sacrifices must continue.
Specifically, he must set out the criteria his cabinet requires to be met for the State of Disaster to be lifted so that everyone can know whether these are rational and fair decisions. I asked him this very question – whether there are specific conditions which must be satisfied before the State of Disaster can be lifted and, if so, what they are – almost four weeks ago on 17 August in a written parliamentary question and I am yet to receive his reply.
That is not good enough, particularly when government’s decisions around lockdowns and economic restrictions already have so little credibility. It is also not good enough for the president to say “as soon as everyone has been vaccinated” when speaking of our return to normality, as we will never get to a point where everyone has had the jab.
Furthermore, until such time as all restrictions are finally lifted, it is crucial that we start applying a regional model for these restrictions based on the healthcare capacity of the region. Infection trends and vaccination rates differ greatly across different parts of the country and there is no single, neat wave that applies to the entire country, or even entire provinces.
Coupled with this, some areas have sufficient hospital capacity to no longer warrant restrictions. It is extremely selfish to subject South Africans to more unnecessary economic hardship when the local conditions do not justify this.
Citizens cannot be held to ransom by the whims of a group of people obsessed with central command and control of the economy – people who have never run a business themselves, never created a single job and whose own jobs and salaries are never at stake no matter how badly they get their Covid response wrong.