CAPE TOWN – Official opposition, the Democratic Alliance said the state of disaster imposed to fight the spread of Covid-19 must now be ultimately scrapped.
“Although it has come far too late, we welcome the move to level 1, including the opening of international borders and lifting of more restrictions on economic and social activity. We repeat our call for the state of disaster to be ended and the curfew to be lifted fully,” said DA leader John Steenhuisen.
“Now that the virus is in retreat, we need to take stock. The DA will call for a parliamentary debate and ad hoc committee to assess the government’s management of South Africa’s Covid-19 response. President [Cyril] Ramaphosa and his government must be held to account for the avoidable socioeconomic devastation which is the net impact of lockdown.”
Reacting to Ramaphosa’s televised national address, Steenhuisen said most sectors of the South African economy should have been fully opened five months ago.
“It was already clear by mid-April that a severe, prolonged lockdown would have devastating socioeconomic consequences, including thousands of excess deaths to other diseases, millions of livelihoods lost, millions of households plunged deeper into poverty, thousands of businesses destroyed, widening inequality, and billions of Rands of tax revenue lost, revenue which should have been pulling people out of poverty,” he said.
“Every life lost is a human tragedy. Life lost to poverty, other diseases, gender-based violence, suicide, and depression may be harder to quantify than life lost to Covid-19, especially as these consequences of lockdown will accrue over decades rather than months. But less visible is not less valuable.”
The DA insisted that by mid-April, it had become clear that the lockdown was a luxury South Africa could not afford.
“Government had amply proved by then that it did not have the capacity to bridge struggling households and businesses over even a 3-week lockdown, let alone a 6-month lockdown – nor feed hungry schoolchildren. It was also clear by then that millions of people were facing risks from other diseases due to lack of access to vital medication, healthcare, testing, and vaccines. And it was also abundantly clear by mid-April that South Africa’s most vulnerable households – those living in cramped conditions in townships – were not physically able to adhere to lockdown restrictions,” said Steenhuisen.
“In other words, that lockdown would not be effective at slowing transmission in large parts of the population. Lockdown is a blunt instrument that should have been replaced five months ago with more targeted interventions to slow the spread of the disease. Furthermore, lockdown was an unaffordable way to buy time to prepare our healthcare system, especially as provinces – other than the DA-run Western Cape – failed to use the time effectively to build additional capacity.”
Ramaphosa on Wednesday announced the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown to a relaxed level 1 which brings resumption of international travel for business and leisure, easing of restrictions on social gatherings, including an increase on the number of people who can attend a funeral to 100, and the nationwide curfew will also be changed to between midnight and 4 am daily.