Relaxation of Covid-19 regulations to Level Four creates the impression that government itself is uncertain about what course of action to take and has no confidence in the public to cooperate

2020-04-30
Dr Pieter Groenewald

Just like the government had a responsibility to implement lockdown regulations to limit the spread of the coronavirus, it now has the responsibility to lift the lockdown in a sensible manner so as to unlock the economy.

The lockdown has already served its purpose to flatten the curve of the infection rate to allow health care services enough time to prepare for a possible extensive outbreak of Covid-19. The government's own head health advisor, Professor Salim Karim, and the Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, have both said that we have already reaped the benefits of the lockdown.

Still the relaxation of the Covid-19 regulations to Level Four shows that the government itself is uncertain about how to go about unlocking the situation and has no confidence in the public to be willing to cooperate and limit the spread of the virus.

The restrictive regulations that will apply in Level Four are also an indication of the government's inability to ensure proper policing and, thus, certain sectors and activities are still excluded.

When it comes to returning to the workplace, no clear guidelines have been provided according to which business enterprises will be evaluated to determine whether or not they meet the necessary hygiene requirements to start operating again.

The government's approach to identify the various business sectors that are allowed to reopen is mainly arbitrary. In the FF Plus's view, the biggest problem in this regard is that small business enterprises, like sole proprietorships, are not allowed to start functioning again.

Examples include garden services, hair salons and the beauty industry. These industries are very vulnerable because they cannot survive without an income for long and as a result, many of them are facing closure. Other sectors that should have been allowed to open include the construction industry. This approach is only going to increase the number of vulnerable people in South Africa.

Many of these enterprises will definitely qualify to meet the necessary hygiene standards and will probably also implement self-regulation seeing as their very survival depends on it.

The clumsy way in which the cigarette matter was handled serves as further proof of the government's inability to approach the relaxation of the regulations in a sensible manner.

It is unacceptable that President Cyril Ramaphosa initially announced that the sale of cigarettes will indeed be allowed and that a Minister (Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) then announced that it is still prohibited as 2000 out of 70000 are opposed to it because it poses a health risk.

The argument put forward by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma concerning the matter does not hold water. The health of smokers who do have health problems related to their smoking will not suddenly improve just because they stop smoking for a month or two.

This arbitrary action will simply increase the trade in illegal cigarettes. The tobacco industry is a continuous stream of income for the government worth billions of rand, but now it is being shut down based on unfounded arguments. This serves as proof that the government has not considered all the provisions carefully.

Another thoughtless and unconvincing decision relates to the times when people are allowed to exercise. It creates the impression that the government is totally out of touch with society. It is an inconvenient time for many people, especially seeing as winter is fast approaching. The short timespan will also mean that large numbers of people will exercise at the same time.

The curfew also does not make any sense and comes down to an abuse of power. Level Five did not have a curfew and people who had permission were allowed to move around freely during those times. The general rule stipulates that people are not allowed on the streets in any case. This raises many questions and according to the FF Plus, it is unacceptable.


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