• October 31, 2020

Will We Get Easter Break or Lockdown Shutdown in South Africa?

In South Africa, Easter long weekend beckons under Covid-19 national lockdown which began on March 26 and set to end April 16 – citizens seek Easter break and/or the permanent shutdown of lockdown on or before April 16 – coping mechanisms are weakening.

Easter Sunday is April 20 – Christians want to shop; shop sellers want to sell; families want to gather and shops want to open. The only feasible relief in this knotty situation is perhaps lockdown may be relaxed for the Easter weekend – but that still depends on the government.

Has lockdown flattened the curve to disrupt the spread of the novel coronavirus infection? Corona-experts should tell us.

But from the global pulse and course of events recently as the pandemic continues to cause untold havoc, the government may not give Easter break – that is almost certain. But the extension of lockdown is one of the greatest tests of Ramaphosa’s administration as he leads the nation out of the woos in this critical time.

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According BusinessDay’s editorial: “It is now clear that if imposed early enough, strict social distancing — including confining all but essential-service workers to their homes and in effect shutting down the economy — is the most effective means of preventing a nation’s health-care facilities from being overwhelmed due to the exponential nature of the disease’s spread if left unchecked.”

The editorial stresses further: “Unfortunately, it is becoming equally clear that extreme social distancing comes at a terrible cost to society, not least the economy. This is especially true for developing countries and those, such as South Africa, that have already run out of fiscal space to soften the landing for individuals who lose their jobs and companies that do not have the resources to survive the shutdown.”

If we get it right in South Africa, either by discontinuing the lockdown because it has effectively reduced the rate of infection or we extend the lockdown to save lives, it will be painful but we may recover better.

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Concerted efforts are required – prayer, precaution and perseverance are highly needed to cushion the effects of the pandemic even after it may have gone. The effects cannot be easily measured in concrete terms but it won’t be small.

More than ever before, the government must do objective and extensive consultations and must consider the the poorest of the poor seriously – more problems many come from the most vulnerable in the society if they are overlooked in the solutions been offered.

If the government discontinues the lockdown prematurely, that may spell serious healthcare disaster accompanied by fatalities aplenty. If it shuts down the economy for too long, it may throw us into an economic meltdown we won’t recover from for a long time.

It is good to know that the government is making wide consultations to understand the depth of the social and economic effects of the lockdown, specifically on informal traders, small businesses and the mining sector – he must not forget the single mother in Diepsloot who does two piece-jobs a week, earning R500 a month to pull through life.

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Social unrest seems imminent. Lockdown is breaking down gradually – people are losing it and now looting shops.

Other than discontinuing the lockdown systematically and phase by phase, home-brewed solutions that will fit properly into our situation in South Africa is another option, as we think globally and act locally.

So, #CoronaConfusion is beyond Easter break – the issue is how to survive with minimal loss and quickest recovery.

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Femi Oshin

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