The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it is opposed to a continuation of the current “severe and economically crippling” lockdown regulations.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisn issued a statement soon after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a two-week extension of the lockdown until the end of April on Thursday evening.
He said the DA preferred a “gradual phasing out” of the lockdown, adding, “Our great concern is that President Ramaphosa has justified this extension as if we face a binary choice between health concerns and economic concerns.”
Referring to “lives versus livelihoods” as a false dilemma, Steenhuisen said, “Rather, the difficult trade-offs to be made are between lives lost or damaged by COVID-19, and lives lost or damaged by the drastic measures to contain its spread.”
In his address to the nation, Ramaphosa said the government didn’t take the decision to extend the lockdown lightly.
He explained, “As your president, I am mindful of the great and heavy burden this will impose on you. I am keenly aware of the impact this will have on our economy.
“Simply put, if we end the lockdown too soon, or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease. We risk reversing the gains that we have made over the last few weeks, and rendering meaningless the great sacrifices that we have all made.”
However, Steenhuisen said the government has limited resources and it therefore has to make “tough choices for the greater good for the greater number.”
He added, “The absence of empirical data and modelling makes it very difficult to simply agree that a lockdown extension may be an effective means to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“The resulting economic fallout now means that it is not only lives which are threatened by the virus, but livelihoods by our economic and financial collapse as a result of further lockdown regulations.”
He said the DA will present a “model” to Ramaphosa that “will allow the lockdown to be sustained while ensuring that the South African economy does not collapse in the process.”
In the meantime, the DA proposed relaxing essential goods listings, increasing coronavirus testing, and scrapping BBBEE requirements for SME relief funds.
It also called for the readjustment of the national budget and the amendment of the public wage bill to fund relief measures.
In his address, Ramaphosa said the government will announce further economic relief measures in the coming days.
“We will use the coming days to evaluate how we will embark on risk-adjusted measures that can enable a phased recovery of the economy, allowing the return to operation of certain sectors under strictly controlled conditions,” he added.