Political parties respond to easing of lockdown regulations
JOHANNESBURG – President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a sweeping removal of lockdown restrictions on the economy.
In a televised address, Ramaphosa said the government would end the ban on alcohol and tobacco, allow restaurants and taverns to return to normal business — subject to strict hygiene regulations — and remove the ban on travel between provinces.
“All indications are that South Africa has reached the peak and moved beyond the inflection point of the curve,” Ramaphosa said, adding that the cabinet had decided to move to lower, Level 2 restrictions from midnight on Monday.
“The move to Level 2 means that we can remove nearly all of the restrictions on the resumption of economic activity across most industries,” he said.
The COVID-19 crisis has battered an economy already in recession and pushed millions of South Africans deeper into extreme poverty.
The lifting of restrictions on alcohol will be a relief to the battered hospitality and drinks industries, some of which have been pushed close to bankruptcy and shed thousands of jobs.
“The further easing of restrictions presents us with the greatest opportunity since the start of the pandemic to breathe life into our struggling economy,” Ramaphosa said.
But the Democratic Alliance said the economy had already been “killed”.
“These restrictions should have been lifted months ago,” the party’s interim leader John Steenhuisen said in statement, calling for urgent economic reforms and for international tourists to be allowed back.
“We are now in the midst of a devastating economic depression, and all that matters now is getting as many South Africans working as we possibly can.”
The EFF, however, rejected the relaxation of lockdown regulations.
In a statement, the party said there are no legitimate positive signs of a decrease in infections.
“The relaxations of regulations is on the base of manipulated data and mass under-testing to rationalise the reopening of the economy at the expense of lives,” the party said.
“The blunder made by the president will be followed by a loss of life and the lie of a decrease in infections will be exposed and by that time, measures to impose stronger regulations will be too late.”
The UDM has welcomed Ramaphosa’s decision to lift lockdown regulations.
It says the decision has been long overdue.
“We supported the lockdown setup right at the beginning,” said party leader Bantu Holomisa.
“This balancing act is long overdue.”
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said government waited way too long to move the country to Level 2.
He’s also pointing fingers at Cosatu, saying its losing members and that’s why they recently supported calls to lift the ban on alcohol and tobacco sales.
“The move to a lower alert level is welcomed, but it is too little too late,” the party said in a statement.
“The damage that the economy sustained is extensive and the FF Plus does not see how it will recover under ANC rule, particularly in light of the fact that the economy had already deteriorated to junk status before the pandemic.
“The FF Plus welcomes the President’s emphasis on health protocols. The party has held and voiced the opinion that all economic activities should resume with the necessary health protocols in place for quite some time now.”
* Additional reporting eNCA and AFP