South Africa is preparing to move to level 4 of a nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 which has gripped the entire world.
Speaking at a media briefing detailing how the country intends to move from the current level 5 lockdown which is expected to end at the end of April, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel made the call to citizens to buy local.
“When we as South Africans go back to the shops, and we buy locally made goods, we bring demand back into our economy and we help the economy to slowly recover,” said the Minister at Saturday’s virtual briefing.
The Minister and his Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) colleague Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma brifed media on the detail of a document detailing sectors of the economy that are proposed to be gradually phased-in, in level 4 of the lockdown.
Under level 4 of the lockdown, more parts of the primary economy such as mining and agriculture will be opened as they provide inputs into manufacturing.
“The phased re-opening of the economy is also an opportunity to support South African made products, to buy locally because we have had a significant knock on our economy. There’s no question about it - COVID- 19 has hurt the economy. It has hurt jobs, firms, small businesses - they’ve all been hurt,” said the Minister.
Patel said the phased-in re-opening of certain parts of the economy, including the transportation of livestock and the reopening of restaurants that will only deliver food, is about restarting “core parts” of the economy.
Stress testing the economy
Patel said an approximate 1.5 million workers will return to work when the country moves to level 4 of the lockdown from 1 May.
The return to work, said the Minister, will allow an opportunity for the stress testing of the workplace environment for COVID-19.
“[This] is a good opportunity for workers and managers to work together at the workplace to get the workplace COVID-19 ready. As smaller numbers come in, we can stress test the system and see what works and what doesn’t and make [necessary] adjustments,” he said.
He said the health aspect is foremost of the return of workers to work.
“What we’ve outlined today, what the detailed document will show is a phasing in of more parts of the productive economy. We still have to look at this through the spectacles of health to make sure that the level of infection is not spread significantly; that we don’t get a huge pressure on our healthcare system, with large numbers of people getting into the healthcare system,” he said.
In addition, government will engage business and other role-players on the document.
“We will be talking to businesses over the weekend; they will have access to the document and can provide us with their feedback.”
In addition, government will work closely with business to ensure that the risk-adjusted approach can be introduced at workplace level.
The Department of Health will play a key role to ensure that the right measures are put in place to support a COVID-19 resistant work environment.
“There’s a role for sectors to develop partnerships with us in how we can bring the risk level in the economy as a whole down and we can see how to move rapidly down to level 3 [of the lockdown].”
Patel highlighted that a new way of doing things will strengthen the digital economy as those who are able to work from home, have been urged to do so.
“We do realise that there are still many things in the South African economy that require physically delivery. We want to work together in partnership with everybody to get the level of risk down,” said the Minister.
Patel stressed that human life is vital, adding that the economic level of activity is adjusted in line with the level of risk to human life.
The document can be accessed on https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/gcis_documents/goods-services-movement-1.pdf