New Covid restrictions likely to avoid hard lockdown
The government is set to implement tighter localised restrictions including curbs on the sale of alcohol, in measures that seek to slow the spread of Covid-19 in selected hotspots. But the moves are likely to fall way short of the severe steps taken earlier in 2020, which are set to push the economy to its biggest contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Business Day was informed that the health department has recommended to the national coronavirus command council, the body set up to advise the cabinet on measures to deal with the spread of the pandemic, that the maximum size of indoor gatherings be reduced and an earlier curfew put in place.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to address the nation before the expiry of the current state of disaster, which is due to run out on December 15.
The issue is pressing because a large number of people are expected to travel between provinces after public schools close, and then again when the festive season ends, raising the risk that they could reseed the epidemic in places where transmission is low at present.
The limited nature of the new restrictions is a sign that the government recognises the need to tread lightly to try to avoid another lockdown, with the last one having led to a loss of more than 2-million jobs in the second quarter.
While the final numbers are disputed, the state also does not have the fiscal space for a relief package similar to the R500bn it unveiled to deal with the initial closure of the economy.
In November, Ramaphosa announced that level 1 regulations would be amended to allow for borders to be opened to all tourists and allow for normal trading hours for the sale of alcohol. The tourism and alcohol sectors were able to start operating at full capacity after eight months of strict regulations, which cost those industries billions of rand.
The DA said that any new regulations, such as an earlier curfew, would be devastating for restaurants and other businesses during what is traditionally SA’s busiest period for tourism.
“South Africans are about to embark on their holidays to inject much needed money into local economies across the country,” said DA MP Dean Macpherson.
“If they are being forced to leave a restaurant at 9pm or being told to be in bed by 10pm, they may very well reconsider spending their hard-earned money, which would be devastating,” he said.
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