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When Covid-19 first struck in SA policymakers reacted promptly, implementing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns for five consecutive weeks. Despite that, and the gradual easing of the restrictions thereafter, the curve of infection rates has taken shape independently of economic lockdown interventions. By all accounts, those interventions have produced extensive opportunity costs and unintended negative consequences. But with infection rates again on the rise, policymakers are confronted with difficult decisions once more.

The decision in March 2020 to impose a hard lockdown was well received, but the subsequent formulation and implementation of regulations under the National Disaster Act were haphazard at best. Perhaps the starkest manifestation of the economic impact is reflected in a R300bn shortfall in expected tax revenue. This amounts to nearly 30% of SA’s annual budget of more than R1-trillion...

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