DA calls for essential-goods stores to be allowed to sell their usual inventory immediately

On Thursday, the DA welcomed the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa to control the spread of the coronavirus going forward by using five stages in a risk-based model.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen pointed out that it was very similar to an approach that they had suggested earlier to government, in what they had called a “Smart Lockdown” model.

“This phased, risk-adjusted model, whereby restrictions are lifted as and when the data suggests it is safe, is critical to protecting precious jobs and ensuring that the livelihood of millions of South Africans is saved. The DA has called for precisely this approach in our Smart Lockdown Plan, released 10 days ago. It is encouraging that we are able to cooperate in this way, and to know that we are on the same page as we face this daunting challenge.”

He said they would await further details of how the state’s model would affect the various sectors of the economy and society before they made further comments.

“It is important to establish absolute certainty around this new phased approach, and so the details must be clear and unambiguous. We cannot have the issue muddied by conflicting statements from various ministers.

“What is also crucial is that any such phased lifting of lockdown restrictions is accompanied by both a massive increase in testing, tracing and tracking, and the publishing of detailed and reliable data on a range of Covid-19 information which must include localised breakdowns of testing data, infection and mortality data and healthcare data such as ICU beds, ventilator availability and PPE stocks.

“Without such transparent data in the public domain, it is impossible to know when, where and to what extent restrictions on activities are necessary. Sharing this data with the media and public is also critical to maintaining support and ensuring compliance with ongoing Covid-19 measures.

“This regular data release must also cover all aspects of the economic stimulus plan, including lists of businesses applying for and receiving SMME relief, employees receiving TERS relief, details of UIF payments and details of both Covid grant payments and unemployment grant payments.”

Steenhuisen said the DA had earlier in the day shared with Ramaphosa a detailed breakdown of the data required, as well as their latest proposals for the immediate lifting of certain restrictions.

“We have long maintained that the only way to move out of a hard lockdown is to make up for whatever benefits we were getting from this lockdown with equally effective smart interventions. The better we are at implementing these smart interventions – such as increased testing and tracing, good hand hygiene and effective social distancing protocols for all sectors and business types – the less we have to rely on a paralysing lockdown.

“We welcome the requirement for the wearing of facemasks on public transport and the call for them to be worn in all public areas. We reiterate our call for reusable cloth masks to be given out free to those who cannot afford them. It has been proven that wearing a cloth facemask is an extremely effective way of slowing down the spread of the virus, and it is relatively inexpensive, given the massive costs of the other interventions.

“We have calculated that to supply three cloth masks to 40 million South Africans who cannot afford their own would cost around R600 million, which would be money well spent. We urge the president to make this an integral part of the strategy going forward.”

Steenhuisen reiterated the DA’s call for certain restrictions to be lifted immediately.

“All stores selling essential items should be permitted to sell ALL items in their stores, including electronics, stationery, books, beauty products and cigarettes. Stores selling non-essential items should be allowed to open immediately for purposes of fulfilling delivery orders only. Similarly, restaurants and fast-food outlets should be able to open their kitchens for home delivery. All e-commerce stores should be allowed to operate.”

Ramaphosa had earlier announced that such items would only go back on sale from May.

Steenhuisen added that what was urgently required, if the country was to see an additional 73,000 SANDF members deployed on the streets, was a body of parliamentary oversight to guard against overreach and abuse of power.

“We urge the Speaker of Parliament to immediately agree to our request for the formation of an ad-hoc committee to this effect.

“And finally, the most important aspect of any Covid-19 strategy is one already mentioned by the president in his address on Tuesday evening: The economic reforms that must follow this lockdown period. If we don’t urgently fix the underlying structural defects in our economy – including SOE reform, labour legislation reform and energy sector reform – and if we don’t walk away from proposed destructive policies such as expropriation without compensation, the NHI and asset prescription, we will not survive this crisis with our economy intact.”

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