Politicians react to SA moving to level 1 lockdown

17 September 2020 - 12:55
DA leader John Steenhuisen says the move to reopen most of the economy when the country moves to lockdown level 1 on September 20 comes far too late.
DA leader John Steenhuisen says the move to reopen most of the economy when the country moves to lockdown level 1 on September 20 comes far too late.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Politicians have weighed in on President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement to move the country to level 1 of the lockdown.

On Wednesday, Ramaphosa said SA would move to alert level 1 at midnight on Sunday.

“This move recognises that levels of infection are relatively low and that there is sufficient capacity in our health system to manage the need,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa said the country would gradually and cautiously ease restrictions on international travel for business, leisure and other travel with effect from October 1.

Travellers will be allowed to travel into and out of SA from countries that are deemed less high risk for Covid-19. A list of countries deemed high risk will be made available over the next few weeks.

Under level 1, all sectors will be allowed to trade and the curfew will be changed to between midnight and 4am daily.

Alcohol sales will be permitted from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Indoor gatherings will now accommodate up to 250 people at a time, while outdoor events would be capped at 500.

Ramaphosa said religious gatherings such as at mosques, churches and temples, would now accommodate up to 50% capacity. Gyms and theatres would also be allowed up to 50% of their venue capacity.

Sporting events, however, will not see any relaxation on restrictions.

“We have withstood the coronavirus storm. Now is the time to return the country, its people and our economy to a situation that is more normal, that more resembles the lives that we were living six months ago.

“It is now time to remove as many of the remaining restrictions on economic and social activities as it is reasonably safe to do,” said Ramaphosa.

A small contingent of artists, musicians and creatives protested at the Union buildings in Pretoria on September 16 2020. The protesting artists say that government has not done enough to support an embattled industry during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reacting to the announcement, opposition parties and politicians welcomed the move.

One SA leader Mmusi Maimane said level 1 was welcome and the economy needed a serious jump-start. “The most important thing right now is for the economic reconstruction and recovery plan to be concluded and implemented. We need to all stay vigilant to avoid a second wave,” he said.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said the move would support efforts to save jobs and promote the recovery of the economy. “We are especially pleased at the announcement that international travel for both business and leisure can resume with certain restrictions and strict safety measures in place,” said Winde.

“We welcome the news that the maximum capacities for gatherings is increased to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 250 and 500 people respectively. This will allow for events, performances and conferences to go ahead, which will support jobs in our conferencing, and creative sectors in the province.

“At the same time, we must not allow ourselves to become complacent. In the Western Cape, we have been able to move to lower alert levels while still recording decreasing case numbers. The move to alert level one must continue the same trend.”

With alert level 1 under way, South Africa has endured trials and tribulations since the beginning of the national lockdown. TimesLIVE sat down with vaccinology and infectious disease expert Prof Shabir Madhi from Wits University, who shed some light on what could be next for the country, and a few lessons learnt along the way. He gives an update on the vaccine trial and considers the possibilities of a second wave of infection, warning that the country is not yet out of the woods.

What you need to know about SA's lockdown level 1

The official opposition party and the EFF welcomed the decision with a pinch of salt.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said the decision came “far too late” and that Ramaphosa was to blame for avoidable socioeconomic devastation. “President Ramaphosa and his government must be held to account for the avoidable socioeconomic devastation which is the net affect of lockdown,” said Steenhuisen.

“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-19.”

The EFF said it would closely monitor the government’s programmes and responses because “everything they have said about Covid-19 does not seem to be a reflection of reality”.

“The most vivid illustration about the Ramaphosa government, since the lockdown, is that it serves the interest of the white capitalist establishment.

“Instead of localisation of the key products and equipment needed to fight the virus, Ramaphosa's administration chose to prioritise tenderpreneurs who immorally looted state resources for personal benefit,” said the EFF.

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said all restrictions, with a few exceptions, must be removed.

“There are understandable exceptions such as a ban on mass sporting events and restrictions on travel to and from countries with a risk of contagion,” said Groenewald.

“Various sectors, such as the hospitality industry, which is largely dependent on tourism, as well as the restaurant, film and arts industries, are waging a desperate struggle for survival and it is important to save them from final ruin.

“The curfew rule and limited trading hours could no longer be afforded. The new deadline that applies from midnight is another of the government's incomprehensible measures that do not make sense. It is also not clear exactly which sectors it will apply to,” he added.

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