South Africa’s lockdown restrictions could last months: report
South Africa’s 21-day lockdown period could be extended by between two and four months to manage the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak effectively, according to Rapport. The paper cited a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which said that infections in South Africa will only peak in the beginning of June.
The report said restrictions could realistically only be lifted somewhere between the end of June and the end of August. Countries which have been hardest hit, have extended their lockdown periods.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez announced on Saturday an extension of the country’s lockdown to combat the coronavirus. This after the country has recorded the second most infections (126,168), behind the US, and second highest number of deaths (11,947), behind Italy. Globally, coronavirus cases have extended to 1,202,715, with 64,734 deaths, and 246,648 recoveries.
President Ramaphosa warned in a weekly newsletter that it is ‘abundantly clear’ that the most effective way for a society to contain the spread of the disease is for the population to remain at home and physically isolated from each other for at least several weeks.
While South Africa’s lockdown period is set to end midnight on 16 April, other analysts and health professionals have warned that the lockdown could be extended – depending on how South Africans carry themselves during the shut period. Netcare, South Africa’s largest healthcare provider, said it is fully supportive of the 21-day nationwide lockdown in order to ‘flatten the curve’ and lower the communal spread of Covid-19.
“However, our modelling suggests that, as has been experienced in other countries and depending on the effectiveness of the lockdown, it will require on-going evaluation to determine if the time period is sufficient to achieve its intended goals. If South Africans work together to heed the call by government to stay at home and limit movements and interaction with others, the country will be able to follow China’s example and ‘flatten the curve’.
However, if South Africans do not take the matter seriously and continue as business as usual, the containment measures will fail, and the country could face an unprecedented human catastrophe with hundreds of thousands infected. Deputy minister of police Cassel Mathale warned that the national lockdown would be extended if people did not stay at home for the remainder of the 21-day restriction period.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said earlier this week that the lockdown period will be determined by the spread of the infection.“I don’t think life will be normal after the 21 days, there has to be an adjustment in the way we behave ourselves and in the way we do things. The Department of Health has announced that there are 80 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the country as of Saturday (4 April).
This brings the total for the country to 1,585 cases with 53,937 tests conducted. The country recorded two more deaths on Friday as the government continues to fight Covid-19 which has infected more than 1.1 million people worldwide.
The two new deaths include an 81-year-old female and an 80-year-old man – both from KwaZulu-Natal – who have no history of travelling anywhere, abroad or locally. The minister said there were two more suspected Covid-19 related deaths that were yet to be confirmed. While the government is working tirelessly to flatten the curve, minister Mkhize said he was still concerned that the numbers are “slowly” increasing.
Meanwhile president Ramaphosa commended national, provincial and local government on their efforts to stop the spread of the virus. The president thanked them for their concerted measures to provide relief to the most vulnerable communities, informal sector workers and indigent households during this period.
While appreciating the hardship and inconvenience the national lockdown has caused, the president reasserted that it has been countries that have imposed restrictions on movement and gatherings, that have managed to flatten the curve of the virus.
The president urged government and society at large to build on the tremendous impetus provided by the need to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic to rethink how governments, businesses and communities function and relate to each other. The coronavirus changes everything,” president Ramaphosa said.
With the 21-day nationwide lockdown in place, the full effects will now ripple through all sectors and industries at least until the end of this year – in an “economic cycle like no other we have ever seen”, said University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) guest lecturer in corporate and development finance, Jason Hamilton.
Hamilton, a director at First River Capital, said with the South African economy already under severe pressure – the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) having revised its GDP forecast down to 0.2% for 2020 – it was expected that the impact of slowed-down global growth (expected to contract by 2.1%) due to the pandemic would see South Africa’s GDP retracting by between 2.5% to 3.5% with some models estimating up to 5%.
“Up to the lockdown businesses were able to trade and generate some earnings to keep the lights on, keeping employees employed and earning some level of income. A total lockdown will bring significant retrenchments across all sectors and industries, with cashflow and earnings under threat in businesses of all sizes.
“It is also looking likely that some form of control and restrictive measures will remain in place for months to come, which means we will be dealing with this until the end of the year – even if we look to China, which now has a flattening curve, they are more than five months into the battle against the disease while trying to keep their economy alive,” Hamilton said.
Data from the last 11 global recessions indicate that it takes on average a year-and-a-half for the economy to start recovering, but the current economic cycle is unlike any other.
“Recessions we have seen, and we have traded through them, and the average of 18 months to the start of recovery in theory gives us a timeline to follow. But the market sell-offs and economic cycle (reduced GDP growth or recession) we are busy entering is based on an event, not on fundamentals or underlying economic systems issues, which means it’s very difficult to predict how long and how impactful it will be.
“What we can, however, focus on is that it is event-driven and hence the recovery and comeback should be quick, the question is just when,” said Hamilton.