Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen, on Tuesday 15 September, released a statement requesting that four lockdown restrictions, in particular, be lifted as the government discusses a possible move to Level 1 lockdown. 

Apart from the four restrictions, the leader of the official opposition also suggested that lockdown restrictions be ended entirely and immediately with the exception of mass gatherings in confined spaces. 

Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa is on Tuesday, charing a virtual meeting of the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC), as well as, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) on progress towards the finalisation of a national economic recovery plan.

As government deliberates over a move to Level 1 lockdown, Steenhuisen said four restrictions, in particular, should be done away with. 

LEVEL 1: DA CALLS FOR FOUR RESTRICTIONS TO BE LIFTED 

Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa must end the nationwide 22:00 curfew, open all sectors of the economy, allow for international travel and a normal school week. 

“This severe and prolonged lockdown has plunged our economy, the lifeline of our society, into unprecedented crisis. We simply cannot afford the luxury of blanket restrictions on economic activity. Rather, government should trust people to take individual responsibility in line with clear safety guidelines,” said Steenhuisen. 

“The lockdown has devastated South Africa’s economy, causing immense suffering including widespread hunger. It has increased (rather than decreased) risk for millions of households, and aggravated inequality, including educational inequality,” he added. 

In the meantime, the National Health Department said certain restrictions are being mulled over. 

“In previous statements relating to restrictions under the National State of Disaster, we committed to reviewing these periodically as we reassess the state of the South African epidemic. Having observed evidence that suggests a sustained decline in transmission, we have considered easing restrictions in various aspects [for Level 1],” it said. 

‘WE NEED TO GET BACK TO WORK, TO SCHOOL AND TO OUR LIVES’ – STEENHUISEN

As government discusses a possible move to Level 1, Steenhuisen said respected scientists such as vaccinology Professor Shabir Mahdi and Dr Glenda Gray, both members of government’s ministerial advisory committee, advised that the lockdown is not serving any useful purpose and should be ended, with the exception of large gatherings in confined spaces.

“In calling for a full opening of the economy and schools, the DA is not denying the risk of a second wave, even though the scientific consensus is that this risk is low. Rather, we believe that the risk posed to households by a deep and prolonged depression is far greater on balance,” said Steenhuisen. 

A move to Level 1 lockdown would no doubt improve the state of the country’s economy. Even more so after the announcement of a dismal GDP figure.

“We need to get back to work, to school, and to our lives – and we need to do it safely. But we need to do more than that. We also need to agree as a society to back the economic reforms that can get our economy growing again, and that can roll back poverty, unemployment and inequality,” he added.  

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Presh JM Reporter

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