Ultimately, there is not enough to distinguish lockdown Level 4 from Level 5. This will be disastrous for millions of lives and livelihoods. Government has essentially smuggled through an extension of the hard lockdown under the guise of easing restrictions.
If government had gone with the DA’s Smart Lockdown proposal, more of the economy could have been opened without compromising safety.
Government’s approach is unnecessarily blunt and restrictive, with simply no justification for many of the arbitrary rules and restrictions.
The DA proposed an incentives-driven approach in which government specifies the safety measures that must be in place before a business can open, and businesses then decide if they are willing or able to meet the required safety standards.
This empowers employers, employees and customers within a reasonable set of safety rules. Reasonableness and compliance go hand in hand. Government’s unreasonable approach may undermine the whole Covid-19 response by generating an explosion of non-compliance.
The DA’s approach incentivises businesses and people to comply, maximising jobs and tax revenue. Government’s forces many to remain closed, potentially forcing them underground – to trade illegally or die.
By way of example, no-one will now be able to legally sell or pay for a haircut, which will have devastating consequences for many working class people who run salons and barbers out of their homes to support their families. The DA’s Level 4 would allow hairdressers to operate, as long as they can meet a specified level of safety.
Some of the decisions are draconian, such as the continued ban on smoking and sale of hot food. Will sugar and fatty foods be next? The President told us smoking would be allowed in Level 4 – but the command council has now backtracked on this.
Others are simply irrational – not based on a consideration of public safety at all, which is the whole purpose of a lockdown. E-commerce (online shopping with delivery) for example is not allowed. Other countries are looking to e-commerce to keep their small businesses afloat, save jobs and service customers. Here we’ve chosen arbitrary ministerial diktat over harnessing individual creativity and decision-making.
Surely the only criterion that matters here is the risk of spreading the virus. If this risk is minimal, then the business should be allowed to trade. Any other decision is purely authoritarian.
One gets the sense that the call for comment was merely a box-ticking exercise, since little has changed from what the government proposed last week, notwithstanding the 70 000 submissions.
Except on the matter of exercise, for which the solution is incomprehensible. Government seems to have forgotten the whole reason we locked down in the first place – to ensure our wellbeing. Now citizens are told they can only exercise between 6am and 9am – as if exercising after work in the evening is somehow bad for them. If anything, this is less safe, as people will all be out at the same time.
And what of those who need to leave home at 5am to get to work? But then again, the ANC has long-since stopped caring about poor people. Or perhaps, for them, the working day doesn’t start before 9am?
Other restrictions are well-intended, such as the continued ban on alcohol, but will have severe negative unintended consequences. This will broaden business opportunities for the mafia and starve our fiscus of needed revenue. The DA suggested reasonable restrictions on times and quantity of legal alcohol sales.
The common thread running through all the restrictions is government’s fundamental lack of trust in the people of South Africa, who are being treated as children rather than adults. People are not being trusted with data or empowered with any reasonable degree of personal decision-making.
The curfew demonstrates this best of all. The DA will consider challenging its legality. President Ramaphosa’s cabinet seems to be indulging in all its nanny-state fantasies. It may soon find itself having to justify these in court, where reasonableness still prevails.