Any Covid-19 lockdown will be 'phased in' and allow for purchase of essential items and clinic visits

22 March 2020 - 13:36 By GRAEME HOSKEN
Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille has been engaging with shopping mall representatives about logistics and the impact should a national lockdown be enforced.
Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille has been engaging with shopping mall representatives about logistics and the impact should a national lockdown be enforced.
Image: Esa Alexander

Shopping mall owners are in discussions with the national and provincial governments in preparation for a feared national coronavirus lockdown.

The discussions, which were confirmed by property developers, come as health officials brace for an explosion in the country's Covid-19 infection rate.

The SA Property Owners Association [SAPOA], whose members own 90% of the country's shopping malls, told TimesLIVE that discussions had recently been held with public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille about logistics and the impact should a national lockdown be enforced.

The discussions follow urgent meetings held late last week between retailers, property developers and the Western Cape government to discuss how to continue providing essential services to residents during the pandemic.

Among measures considered was closing all shops in malls other than grocery stores and pharmacies.

SAPOA CEO Neil Gopal said he had held talks with De Lille, “as she is responsible overall for the property industry with respect to the Disaster Management Act”.

He said the discussions were about distinguishing between essential and non-essential services.

“We don’t believe a total lockdown is imminent as people still require food and water [and] they need to visit clinics. To this end we have drafted a document highlighting what are essential vs non-essential services. We have passed this on to De Lille.”

He said he was in constant contact with De Lille and the presidency about any lockdown to keep their members and the public informed.

“In the event that there is a lockdown, it will be done in a phased approach.”

He said 90% of SA's shopping centres were owned by the association's members. Gopal said that they were working closing with Business Unity SA and the Banking Association SA.

Growthpoint Properties CEO Estienne de Klerk, who is also chair of the SA Real Estate and Investment Trust Association, said at a meeting with the Western Cape government, provincial officials were looking for proposals from property owners on how industry could continue to provide essential services to communities. He said they had already reached out to the national government to see how they could collectively work together in fighting Covid-19.

“It is more than just grocery stores and pharmacies that provide essential services. We need to see how we can keep all essential services operating.”

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said the meeting was part of a larger strategy to deal with Covid-19. “If we go into lockdown there still needs to be services so people can eat. The meeting looked at various low, medium and high risk scenarios and what needs to be done when the risk levels rise. The discussions were around mitigating risks while still ensuring essential services are provided.”

Western Cape economic development department head Solly Fourie said the meeting was called to ensure that retailers and mall owners were equipped to deal with any chaos.

“It was for us to hear where the key risks lie and what provisions are being made, so trade in essential services can continue.

“At this point we don’t know when or if a lockdown will be implemented but we have to prepare for one. Those at the meeting sketched various scenarios including those with both moderate and draconian lockdown measures.”

He said from the meeting it emerged that there were sufficient supply chain measures in place to ensure essential services such as the provision of food could continue.

UKZN School of Nursing and Public Health dean Prof Mosa Moshabela said while government had been prepared for people arriving with Covid-19, and diagnosing and isolating them, South Africans had not been properly prepared.

He said the only way to flatline the country's current infection curve was to ensure stringent containment instructions were obeyed.

“If everyone understands that we can break the spread.”

Moshabela said there were four levels of response in dealing with outbreaks.

“We are currently on the cusp of level four, which is widespread transmission. The moment you go into level four you enter a state of emergency which involves complete lockdown and military mobilisation.

“Key to stopping Covid-19 spreading will be controlling it within urban areas and keeping it away from rural areas, where people have little access to medical and sanitation services.”


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