'We need Ramaphosa to answer questions': Politicians react to SA remaining on level 3 lockdown

12 January 2021 - 11:00 By unathi nkanjeni
ActionSA president Herman Mashaba says he is glad to see that Ramaphosa is committing to vaccinating SA's medical heroes and front-line workers first.
ActionSA president Herman Mashaba says he is glad to see that Ramaphosa is committing to vaccinating SA's medical heroes and front-line workers first.
Image: Sunday Times

Politicians have weighed in on President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement that the country will remain on adjusted level 3 lockdown as the country continues to see an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Ramaphosa was addressing the nation on Monday after a spike in Covid-19 cases since January 1.

He described the Covid-19 pandemic as a “grave and persistent, deepening crisis” and called for the nation to unite against the challenge.

Ramaphosa announced that the nationwide curfew will still start at 9pm but now end at 5am.

The sale of alcohol from retail outlets and on-site consumption of alcohol is still not permitted. According to Ramaphosa, this is to ease pressure on the country's health-care system, particularly for trauma cases.

The country's 20 land borders will be closed until February 15, apart from some exceptions including the movement of cargo and fuel, urgent medical attention, or the return home of SA nationals.

Ramaphosa said the country had secured 20 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, most of it to be delivered this year.

“While the actual level needed for herd immunity is not known, our scientists estimate that we will likely reach herd immunity once about 67% of our population are immune. This amounts to about 40 million people in SA.”

Reacting to the announcement, opposition parties and politicians welcomed the news on vaccines.

Saving SA's medical heroes and front-line workers

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said he was glad to see that Ramaphosa was committing to vaccinating SA's medical heroes and front-line workers first.

“They’re fighting this battle on behalf of all South Africans. ActionSA salutes their dedication, hard work and selflessness,” he said.

“I hope and pray that the president doesn’t allow the vaccine to be captured for selfish gains, in the same way that the R500bn Covid-19 relief funds were looted. We cannot afford for SA to drop this ball. This pandemic has already cost us more than our nation can bear.”

Prioritising pupils and schools

One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane said pupils needed to be prioritised in the vaccine rollout as well.

“They can be asymptomatic carriers and we know from the rage events that having large concentrations of young people can create superspreader events. We also need the president to answer questions,” said Maimane.

He said parents need to make sure that every step is taken to make schools Covid-19 safe.

“All parents should take a hands-on approach to checking if their local school has water, working toilets, a social distancing strategy and adequate PPE. The promises of government are not enough,” he said.

SA 'effectively bankrupt'

The official opposition party welcomed the announcement with a pinch of salt.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said until the vaccine is rolled out, SA “needs to ride the storm as best we can”. 

“This means limiting the damage from lockdown restrictions by taking a more differentiated approach. SA is effectively bankrupt. We cannot afford to support businesses and jobs affected by restrictions,' he said.  

“So, we, therefore, don’t have the luxury of restricting the good with the bad. We need a differentiated, preventive approach rather than the current blunt instrument of uniform strategy across the country.

“The blanket ban approach destroys lives and livelihoods unnecessarily and it distracts and diverts law enforcement resources to areas that don’t make a difference at the expense of areas that do.”

Steenhuisen called on Ramaphosa to give clarity on the vaccine doses, particularly on where they are coming from and when they can be expected.

He also suggested the following to the government:

  • Allow provincial/district flexibility between level 2 and level 3, depending on the level of pressure on hospitals
  • To take the pressure off trauma facilities and reduce superspreader events, target alcohol restrictions where the real risks are, but allow low-risk alcohol-related trading.
  • Lift the beach ban to bring relief to coastal economies, as the chance of overcrowding is unlikely due to the festive period being over
  • Lift the curfew and further limiting of gatherings where necessary

Irrational measures and ban on alcohol

FF Plus said the sharp rise in new Covid-19 cases proved that the government overreacted last year when it implemented extreme measures that caused needless damage to the economy.

“As regards the latest measures, it is irrational that beaches remain closed as the police are spending so much precious time, energy and money on apprehending and prosecuting lone individuals on beaches,” said the party.

“Likewise, it is irrational to extend the ban on alcohol. The ban is not achieving the desired outcome. It is merely facilitating illegal trade, decreasing state revenue and depriving many people in this industry of a livelihood as jobs are lost. At most, stringent restrictions should be placed on the sale of alcohol, but an absolute ban is doing more damage than good.”

The party said it was unacceptable that prisoners would receive the vaccine before the public, “who are responsible for ensuring the country's economic survival”. 

“The government failed to procure a vaccine in time and its plan for rolling out a vaccination programme is predominantly unrealistic.”

FULL ADDRESS | Alcohol ban remains as lockdown level 3 extended

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