Cyril Ramaphosa to address nation on Wednesday night
The president is likely to announce that SA will be easing lockdown restrictions further and opening the country’s borders
President Cyril Ramaphosa will address SA on Wednesday night, where he is likely to announce that SA will be easing lockdown restrictions further and opening the country’s borders, with conditions.
The address will take place at 7pm, following meetings this week with the national coronavirus command council, the president’s co-ordinating council and cabinet.
The country went into complete lockdown at the end of March, shutting down the majority of the economy except for essential services. The risk-adjusted strategy used to curb the spread of the coronavirus has gradually been eased with the country moving to level 2 in August, which finally saw most the economy reopened.
The six-month lockdown has had a devastating effect on SA’s already weak economy, with Stats SA last week revealing that it shrank at an annualised rate of 51% during the second quarter, the worst quarterly collapse on record. If the second-quarter results are not annualised, GDP contracted by 16.4%.
While expectations are that the country’s borders will open, it is likely that there will be restrictions on countries still deemed high risk.
Tourism and aviation have been some of the biggest casualties of the lockdown, threatening the future of businesses throughout the value chain. Tourism contributes an estimated 8.6% to GDP and supports about 1.5-million people.
SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona said the tourism sector was ready to reopen fully and had put all protocols in place. However, he questioned whether SA was ready to receive tourists from high-risk areas.
“We have done so much as a country to get our numbers down. The last thing we want to do is reignite infections because you are importing the risk in,” he told Business Day.
Ntshona said the sector had devised a recovery plan and it was projecting that to return to 2019 activity levels would take two to two-and-a-half years.
He said the sector now needed to keep an eye on important source markets and had to classify the world into high, medium and low-risk countries. He used the UK as an example, saying the country was still in a red zone.
“The difficulty with this is that the rating changes on a weekly basis so therefore while we are in amber today, we could be green or red based on our numbers going up or down. So it is a very volatile space,” he said.
“We learnt some lessons from the northern hemisphere. We saw British people vacationing in Spain and mid vacation they were told Spain’s rating has changed. They are now in amber or red, you will be subjected to 14 day quarantine and that is 14 days that you never accommodated or budgeted for in terms of holiday.”
Ntshona said he believed traveller demographics and their behaviour would also change.
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