It was tempting for a moment to believe that a 21-day lockdown would save SA from being decimated by Covid-19. From a public health perspective it was undoubtedly the right decision. Taking decisive action just nine days after the first locally transmitted case was a heroic effort to flatten the curve.

However, not unexpectedly, the lockdown brought into sharp focus the economic consequences, trading one sort of human suffering for another. Our economy is a fragile house of cards, easily collapsed with plummeting global markets, currency weakness, spiking unemployment and particularly vulnerable informal and immigrant sub-economies. But the choice between economic and public health disasters is a false dichotomy — financial, social and physical wellbeing are tightly woven together in a way that can’t easily be traded off...

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