Cape Town CBD. Picture: THE SUNDAY TIMES
Cape Town CBD. Picture: THE SUNDAY TIMES

The city of Cape Town is calling on the national government to consider allowing certain businesses, such as those in e-commerce and manufacturing, to be allowed to operate for the rest of the coronavirus lockdown period.

The city is also proposing that small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs), especially those who employ 10 workers or less, be allowed to continue running, regardless of the sector.

“[SMMEs] have the flexibility to pivot, adjust and demonstrate high levels of social-distancing and health control, such as hair salons, plumbers, electricians and specialist repair artisans. These industries employ hundreds of thousands of people who depend on salaries to keep their families going,” said James Vos, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for economic opportunities.

As the government tries to contain the rapidly spreading and potentially deadly Covid-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last week that the lockdown, which was due to end on April 16, will be extended by another two weeks with many of the stringent measures remaining in place.  

This means many businesses deemed non-essential will remain closed for the foreseeable future. However, Ramaphosa suggested that the lockdown will be reviewed in the coming days with a view to implementing “risk-adjusted measures that can enable a phased recovery of the economy, allowing the return to operation of certain sectors”.

Vos said he had written to trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel to request a re-assessment as to which businesses are allowed to operate. “This is to keep the economy going to ensure we are better positioned to deal with the major economic challenges that lie ahead once the virus is brought under control” 

Vos said the highly automated manufacturing businesses should be allowed to return to full capacity, with additional focus on their potential to adapt and manufacture healthcare items. Relaxation should be granted on the basis of the introduction of staggered shifts and/or shift-working.

In terms of e-commerce, Vos highlighted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low. The risk of catching the virus from a physical package is also very low. Due to this, Vos said the city has requested easing the restrictions on e-commerce to allow for all electronic equipment (which includes PCs, printers and scanners) to be sold and delivered. This would assist with virtual or remote communication, business functioning, and all e-learning initiatives.

Vos also called for lifting restrictions on take-away businesses and restaurants offering a pick-up service, also based on the WHO advice that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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