Lockdowns to slow the Covid-19 pandemic, and caution in phasing them out, are unavoidable investments in our future. But investments have to be sustainable and efficient. History is littered with companies that made big losses on gargantuan projects — think Eskom and Sasol. So it’s important that we learn from the experiences of other countries that are reopening after subduing the pandemic.

These successful countries did not give in to pressure for a big-bang approach. All retain substantial restrictions, but focused on high-risk areas. Most infections arise in homes, followed by public transport; entertainment and personal services; and retail. Negligence in these spheres can reignite the pandemic, making it far harder to revive economic activities later on. If you want to know what that looks like, google Guayaquil (Guayaquil). That’s why no leading economist, either in SA or globally, accepts a simple, static trade-off between pandemic deaths and jobs...

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