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Political parties welcome Ramaphosa's five-level lockdown easing plan

ANC and DA agree on the need to balance saving lives and opening the economy

23 April 2020 - 23:06 By Aphiwe Deklerk and Zingisa Mvumvu
DA leader John Steenhuisen lauded President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement on an easing of the lockdown.
DA leader John Steenhuisen lauded President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement on an easing of the lockdown.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Political parties and trade unions have all lauded President Cyril Ramaphosa for his announcement on Tuesday night that the Covid-19 lockdown will be eased from May 1.

Both the ANC and DA said it was encouraging that government was balancing saving lives and giving the economy a chance to breathe after its suffocation under a total lockdown since last month.

Ramaphosa announced that the country would ease some restrictions, with several businesses expected to open, including allowing the sale of cigarettes.

Official opposition DA leader John Steenhuisen on Thursday evening said he welcomed Ramaphosa’s announcement on the introduction of a phased lockdown from May 1.

Steenhuisen likened the Ramaphosa’s announcement to the DA’s “Smart Lockdown” plan which was proposed two weeks ago.

“This phased, risk-adjusted model, whereby restrictions are lifted as and when the data suggests it is safe, is critical to protecting precious jobs and ensuring that the livelihood of millions of South Africans is saved.

“The DA has called for precisely this approach in our ‘Smart Lockdown Plan’, released ten days ago. It is encouraging that we are able to co-operate in this way, and to know that we are on the same page as we face this daunting challenge,” Steenhuisen said in a statement on Thursday.

But he still called for transparent data to inform the phased lockdown. In his speech Ramaphosa announced five phases of the lockdown. Phase five is the current lockdown regulation which will be relaxed after April 30.

“Without such transparent data in the public domain, it is impossible to know when, where and to what extent restrictions on activities are necessary. Sharing this data with the media and public is also critical to maintaining support and ensuring compliance with ongoing Covid-19 measures,” said Steenhuisen.

He said his party shared with Ramaphosa a detailed breakdown on the data required to lift restrictions. “We have long maintained that the only way to move out of a hard lockdown is to make up for whatever benefits we were getting from this lockdown with equally effective smart interventions.

“The better we are at implementing these smart interventions — such as increased testing & tracing, good hand hygiene and effective social distancing protocols for all sectors and business types — the less we have to rely on a paralysing lockdown,” he said.

He said his party welcomes the requirement of face masks on public transport and the call for them to be worn in all public areas.

ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said citizens must rally behind the new eased lockdown in the interest of the country.

“All of us are expected to support these efforts, especially that they are meant to save lives and make sure that when we return to normality, all of us have adapted to this new normal,” said Mabe.

“As the president has rightly stated, whatever measures they undertake on the ground, they have got to be informed by scientific evidence.”

Mabe said gradually phasing out the lockdown instead of abruptly ending it was the only logical thing to do.

The governing party was particularly pleased that its president had opened a window for various industries to submit their suggestions before the new lockdown regulations are gazetted.

Mabe said: “All of these different sectors of our economy will be expected as announced to forward their own plans in terms of how they are going to effectively run their operations under these conditions by making sure there are precautionary measures to protect lives.”

Numsa's general secretary, Irvin Jim, also welcomed the announcement.

“The government of SA is one that is consultative.” 

Jim said as a union they were doing their best to mobilise workers at shop floor to support government's efforts to contain the virus.