Load-shedding-type lockdown phases and rapid aid for small businesses: DA suggests

The party's policy team has proposed a phased strategy and moving between different stages of restriction.
The party's policy team has proposed a phased strategy and moving between different stages of restriction.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Under a hard lockdown, SA is heading towards an economic depression, says DA leader John Steenhuisen, who on Monday presented an alternative plan to supplement government’s coronavirus response effort.

Realistically, he said, SA may have to contain the coronavirus right up until a vaccine is widely available in 18-24 months’ time.

The party's policy team has proposed 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.

The policy document suggests government at a national level should provide a bold stimulus package to act as a “bridge” for poor households and small businesses to get to the other side of this crisis; massively ramp up direct cash transfers to poor households by significantly increasing all social grants; expedite UIF cash transfers to the newly unemployed by opening up UIF offices and enlisting private sector support; and expedite TERS cash transfers to struggling small businesses by enlisting private sector support with implementation.

“We should aim to generate a minimum R300bn budget to fund this (social relief/economic stimulus package) and the 'smart lockdown' interventions,” the party said.

The DA’s proposal is for a lockdown similar to an Eskom load-shedding grid, which provides different stages of lockdown in response to the data on new daily infections and hospital capacity.

Massive rollout of testing, tracking, tracing, and treatment should accompany this, along with the enabling and strict enforcement of the wearing of protective face masks in all public areas.

The four stages of lockdown would be:

Level 4 — hard lockdown

Current lockdown restrictions.

Level 3

All primary and secondary sectors can be opened, where PPE can be provided for workers and social distancing measures adhered to.

• All economic activity in the primary sector (agriculture, mining) to operate as per normal or as per sectoral agreements (such as the mining sector agreement of April 9).

• Tradesmen (plumbers, electricians) may also operate.

• Informal traders with permits and trading in designated trading areas may operate.

• Some who work in these sectors may not be able to return to work due to childcare and schools remaining closed.

• Opening up of sectors like textiles and manufacturing will enable them to help contribute to the availability of much-needed equipment.

• Workers who can work from home, even in these sectors, should still be encouraged to do so.

• The intention is to still keep numbers of people out in public spaces to a minimum. Places of entertainment, leisure & lifestyle activities to remain closed. Restaurants may open but may only fulfil delivery and collection orders.

• Those who work in the tertiary sectors are to remain at home.

• While all retail stores will now be open, encourage home delivery of essential and non-essential goods. Stores to practise adequate hygiene and social distancing.

• Movement between provinces of goods, other domestic travel remains restricted.

• Social gatherings not permitted.

• Masks mandatory in all public areas.

• Quarantine / isolation of high-risk people is highly recommended.

Stage 2 

All businesses to open subject to availability of PPE for employees and strict physical distancing measures adhered to.

Restriction of opening hours for restaurants and bars.

• All public institutions to open. Encourage physical distancing at schools for example Teachers to ensure breaks at desks situated appropriate distance apart instead of playground.

• Open up social gatherings of <100 where strict distancing measures will be adhered to.

• Permit movement between provinces, including domestic air travel. Flights to low-risk countries.

• Ability to seek non-chronic and non-emergency medical care. Virtual consultations encouraged.

• Masks mandatory in all public areas. Quarantine / isolation of high-risk people is recommended.

Stage 1

• All travel except to and from high-risk countries. In-bound travellers must be tested and isolated if necessary.

• Public gatherings of 500 subject to use of PPE and adherence to social distancing. Mechanism to request permission for larger gatherings.

• Masks mandatory in all public areas.

• Quarantine / isolation of high-risk people is recommended.

Time spent in each stage can differ as SA may need to move back and forth between stages to strike the balance between infection suppression and economic activity.

“The aim is to release some restrictions, monitor how the virus progresses, then repeat.

Our strategy is to find the path that will reduce the number and spread of new infections over time to ensure that our health care system is not overwhelmed. And to do this at the lowest economic cost.”

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