Steenhuisen urges Ramaphosa to reopen international travel and end curfew

John Steenhuisen. Image credit: Twitter/John Steenhuisen

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to “end the curfew, open all sectors of the economy and allow for international travel and a normal school week.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Steenhuisen further called for the lifting of lockdown restrictions “entirely and immediately,” except for mass gatherings in confined places.

Level 1 lockdown in South Africa

Ramaphosa was scheduled to chair a meeting of the Presidential Coordinating Council (PCC) on Tuesday where a possible move to level 1 lockdown in South Africa was on the agenda.

“The lockdown has devastated South Africa’s economy, causing immense suffering including widespread hunger. It has increased (rather than decreased) risk for millions of households and aggravated inequality, including educational inequality. South Africa now faces the prospect of a deep and prolonged depression as our debt spirals out of control,” Steenhuisen said.

He pointed out that the DA wasn’t denying the risk of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, but “we believe that the risk posed to households by a deep and prolonged depression is far greater on balance.”

He cited the 88 percent COVID-19 recovery rate, societal behaviour change, a build-up of herd immunity and a slow rate of transmission to back up his argument.

“We need to get back to work, to school, and to our lives – and we need to do it safely. But we need to do more than that. We also need to agree as a society to back the economic reforms that can get our economy growing again, and that can roll back poverty, unemployment and inequality,” Steenhuisen said.

In a statement on Tuesday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize hinted that his Department had “considered” relaxing various lockdown restrictions and presented its views to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

Possible relaxation of restrictions

Level 1 lockdown South Africa rules could entail the relaxation of “curfew, religious gatherings and travel restrictions,” Mkhize hinted. The NCCC would make final recommendations to the Cabinet for adoption, he added.

“Whatever decisions are made, it is important to emphasise that the risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 still remains and that non-pharmaceutical interventions remain important as we learn to co-exist with the coronavirus,” the Minister cautioned.

Case management data also demonstrates a downward trend of the pandemic, Mkhize added. “The number of detected cases countrywide continues to decline. Since the 22nd of August, we have reported under 3,000 cases a day. At the height of the epidemic during the month of July, we would report anything between 10,000 and 15,000 cases a day.

“Supporting this decline is also a demonstrable decline in persons under investigation, general ward admissions, ICU admissions, deaths and excess deaths. Consistency across these indicators reassures us that indeed we are in the midst of a trough in the pandemic,” he explained.

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