Martin Kingston. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Martin Kingston. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Business for SA (B4SA) has welcomed the government's announcement of its intention of further ease the Covid-19 national lockdown and reopen the economy.  

On Wednesday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that consultations would soon begin for an end-of-May relaxation of one of the most stringent lockdown regulations in the world. He said by the end of the month, most of the country may move to level 3 of the government’s risk adjusted strategy, except for those areas where Covid-19 infections remained high.

The president also said the government would be announcing certain changes to level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and e-commerce, and reduce restrictions on exercise.

SA has been in a Covid-19 nationwide lockdown for seven weeks, causing economists to forecast the worst economic contraction in at least a century.

B4SA's Martin Kingston said the organisation was continuing to engage with the government to foster a swift easing of economic restrictions, accompanied by stringent health and hygiene measures in the workplace, in public transport, public services and public spaces.

“We strongly support risk adjusted and evidence-based policymaking informed by ever-improving models created by health and economic experts,” he said.

“As B4SA, we have been sharing our detailed risk, economic and health modelling with government and will continue to work with the state to improve our collective response.”

B4SA said business recognised that the initial lockdown was successful in flattening the curve, slowing the rate of Covid-19 infections and giving the public and private healthcare system a chance to increase the capacity to deal with the virus.

It said business shared Ramaphosa’s concern that the strict economic lockdown imperilled the livelihoods of millions of SA.

Widespread hunger, despair and economic desperation are already a reality for millions, but the lockdown restrictions have caused significant harm, particularly to small businesses, part-time workers and the self-employed.

B4SA welcomed the financial support from government but said it was clear that unless the country can quickly restore people’s capacity to earn and for businesses to function, not only will government revenue collapse, but huge job losses and business failures will ensue.

“We recognise the need to continue to strengthen our health defences in the face of the inevitable increase in Covid-19 cases, and protecting the most vulnerable in society, while returning the economy to full productivity on a responsible basis,” said Kingston.

He said B4SA was urging for comprehensive screening, testing, tracking and tracing to continue in order for decisions to be taken with full access to appropriate and relevant information.