Calls for faster vaccine rollout and help for businesses hit by lockdown

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
Cosatu said relief is needed for businesses prohibited from trading or required to downscale, including the liquor, tourism, hospitality, sports, and events sectors. Pictured is a file image of a nearly empty restaurant parking lot.
Cosatu said relief is needed for businesses prohibited from trading or required to downscale, including the liquor, tourism, hospitality, sports, and events sectors. Pictured is a file image of a nearly empty restaurant parking lot.
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Political parties have accused government of forcing South Africans to pay the price for vaccine rollout failures by adopting the adjusted level 4 lockdown, while concern is mounting for those at risk of losing their incomes.

Trade union federation Cosatu said relief needed to be provided for those sectors of the economy prohibited from trading or required to downscale, including the liquor, tourism, hospitality, sports and events sectors.

Two liquor industry bodies have asked the president to reconsider the 14-day ban on alcohol sales, with one saying it is considering taking legal action.

These were some of the reactions following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcements on Sunday night to stem the rise in Covid-19 infections, which include a ban on leisure travel in and out of Gauteng, no-sit down service in restaurants, a 9pm curfew and schools to close earlier for the winter holidays. 

The EFF said people should “defy Ramaphosa until there is a clear vaccination plan for the whole country”.

“We call for the defiance and rejection of Ramaphosa’s lockdown and restrictions because they are not accompanied by a comprehensive and believable plan to end the devastating impact of the coronavirus.”

The party said it would proceed with political programmes to prepare for by-elections on June 30 and local government elections on October 27.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said South Africans were being battered by the third wave of infections with less than 1% of the population fully vaccinated. Yet again, he said, government was resorting to the blunt instrument of blanket restrictions, the main purpose of which was to give the illusion of action.

He said only people who had never started and run a restaurant and who did not rely on its success would force a restaurant to close without notice.

Steenhuisen said the tourism industry continued to be shut down at a moment’s notice, with the expectation they should continue servicing their debts with no support from government.

“All those who rely on their income in the alcohol industry are also again being made to pay for government failure.”

The Beer Association of SA said it was seeking legal advice on the latest ban in the interest of protecting jobs and livelihoods.

It said many more businesses will find themselves on the brink of closure as a result of the latest 14-day ban and no financial relief made available by government.

The SA Liquor Brand owners Association called on government to reassess its response to the coronavirus pandemic by implementing more effective measures, including addressing its handling of the vaccine rollout.

“Without implementing a widespread and efficient vaccination programme, there is no possibility of allowing the country to begin the long process of economic recovery.”

It said the latest ban will fuel growth in the illegal trade of alcohol, which has been proved to increase exponentially when a total ban is imposed.

Cosatu sympathised with government’s decision. It said the additional restrictions imposed were necessary to stem the tide of infections, especially the prohibition of all gatherings, reduced numbers for funerals and a tighter curfew.

“We note the ban on all alcohol sales to provide relief to hospitals, the early winter holidays for schools and the need for restaurants to shift to take-aways only.

“We appreciate the attempt by government to minimise disruptions to the economy while seeking to save lives,” Cosatu said.

However, relief needed to be provided for those sectors of the economy prohibited from trading or required to downscale, including the liquor, tourism, hospitality, sports and events sectors.

“This relief needs to come from not only the Unemployment Insurance Fund but also in the form of tax and rates holidays and loan and premium payment holidays from banks and insurance companies. Failure to provide relief is to condemn workers to job and wage losses and businesses to total collapse,” said the trade union federation.

The IFP lamented government’s decision not to listen to its calls to ban travel from India in December to limit the risk of the Delta variant, which is spreading in SA, but urged compliance with the lockdown to “flatten the curve”.

Calling for swift action in ramping up the vaccine roll-out programme, the IFP urged the country “to once again stand united in the fight to fundamentally disrupt the chain of transmission of this deadly virus”.

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