The Democratic Alliance (DA) has welcomed the move to Level 1 lockdown, however, it said it came five months too late, leaving a devastating impact on the economy. Based on that, the party said it would call for a parliamentary debate and ad hoc committee to assess the government and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s management of South Africa’s COVID-19 response. 

“President Ramaphosa and his government must be held to account for the avoidable socioeconomic devastation which is the net impact of lockdown,” said DA leader John Steenhuisen. 

LEVEL 1 TOO LATE 

Steenhuisen said the DA has welcomed the move to Level 1, including the opening of international borders and lifting of more restrictions on economic and social activity, however, it maintained that the National State of Disaster still needs to be done away with and the curfew needs to be lifted completely. 

On Wednesday 16 September, Ramaphosa not only announced a nationwide move to Level 1 lockdown but he also eased the curfew. Instead of a curfew starting at 22:00, he said there would now be a curfew from 12:00 to 04:00. It’s not good enough for the DA, though. 

“Most of the economy should have been fully opened five months ago when the DA first called for it. 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,” said Steenhuisen. 

Steenhuisen said it was declared in April that COVID-19 did not pose a risk to those below the age of 65, however, government still continued with restrictions far beyond Level 1. 

“It is unforgivable that government did not then amend restrictions accordingly, to keep the response proportional to the multiple risks we face as a society,” said Steenhuisen. 

‘LOCKDOWN IS A BLUNT INSTRUMENT THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN REPLACED’ – STEENHUISEN 

Steenhuisen listed an array of reasons as to why the lockdown should have been lifted or moved to Level 1 five months ago. He said it became abundantly clear by mid-April that lockdown was a luxury South Africa could not afford. 

“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. Lockdown is a blunt instrument that should have been replaced five months ago with more targeted interventions to slow the spread of the disease,” he said. 

Steenhuisen also said many eminently qualified people from a variety of disciplines called for an end to lockdown months ago, including vaccinology professors Shabir Mahdi and Glenda Gray, who are on the government’s ministerial advisory committee, however, Ramaphosa did not bat an eyelid. 

“Ramaphosa’s government can only rescue the situation now by implementing wide-ranging pro-growth economic reforms to roll back mounting poverty, a pandemic much more deadly than COVID,” added Steenhuisen. 

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Presh JM Reporter

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