SA could move to level 2 this week to save economy from Covid-19 battering

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize     Image: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sowetan
This is the recommendation that has been made to the national coronavirus command council (NCCC)

The country could move to level 2 this week if cabinet accepts a recommendation from directors-general to open more sectors of the economy.

A forum made up of directors-general of national departments (Fosad), met on Sunday where it was resolved to recommend to the national coronavirus command council (NCCC), that almost all sectors of the economy be opened except crowded places, but under strict enforcement of social distancing, hand sanitisation and wearing of masks.

If their recommendation is accepted by the NCCC and endorsed by cabinet, President Cyril Ramaphosa could address the nation before the end of the week to communicate the move to level 2.

TimesLIVE understands from two people who attended the meeting on Sunday that the dominant view among directors-general was that the economy had taken a battering and that more sectors should be opened to fire it up again.

“The conversation was that if we don’t open more sectors of the economy, there’s going to be more damage,” said a director-general who asked not to be named.

Another attendee said there were robust discussions about the lockdown and the safest ways to open more sectors. He said workstreams of the directors-general forum had interacted with the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints), which co-ordinates all security and law enforcement operations in the country, to advise on how best the country could open up more given that infection rates were steadying, and the virus was being contained. NatJoints includes the police, the army, intelligence services and the department of health, among others.

The NCCC met on Tuesday to discuss recommendations from the directors-general and other structures on the way forward. Its decisions have to be endorsed by cabinet.

Contacted on Wednesday, cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams refused to comment, saying discussions in the NCCC and cabinet were highly confidential. “If it’s not been cleared, I can’t talk about it,” she said.

Presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale was unable to immediately indicate when the Ramaphosa would address the country, saying he needed to gather more information before he could comment.

SA, which has so far recorded more than 566,000 infections and 10,000 deaths, has enforced one of the strictest lockdowns in its battle against Covid-19. This includes prohibiting the sale of alcohol and tobacco and enforcing a night-time curfew.

The tobacco industry has gone to court to try to overturn the ban on sales, while the alcohol industry has implored the government to allow it to resume sales under certain conditions, including limited trading hours and rationing the amount of liquor that individuals can purchase.

Top players such as SA Breweries and Heineken announced that they were putting on ice investments worth billions of rand as a result of not being allowed to trade. The hospitality industry is also pleading to be allowed to operate in full to save thousands of businesses and jobs.

BY CAIPHUS KGOSANA – TimesLIVE

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