· Supports stringent health and hygiene protocols for all public and private sector activity
· Calls for evidence-based interventions balancing health, economic recovery and societal impact
· Commends the commitment of health workers and volunteers in the fight against COVID-19
Business for South Africa (B4SA) supports President Ramaphosa and the Cabinet’s decision to continue the phased and risk-adjusted transition of South Africa to Level 3 which enables more businesses and public services to function. This will ensure fewer jobs are lost, more services are delivered, and our socio-economic recovery can enter a new phase.
As business we believe the ability for any country to deliver better comprehensive health outcomes for all citizens is dependent on a functional society and economy. This means balancing health and economic activity. Wherever possible, every part of South African society – whether the State, business, NGO or individuals, must work in the safest possible manner. Tragically, COVID-19 will afflict the world and our country for many years to come. Infections and mortalities will rise, but so too will the number of our people who have beaten the virus as our capacity to respond increases.
Business commends the work and sacrifice of healthcare workers who are toiling tirelessly to increase public and private healthcare treatment capacity.
To sustain the impetus for a functional economy we must take practical risk adjusted steps, due to our current circumstances, ultimately to secure the health of South Africa’s people. The restart of the economy needs to be from a different premise, one where everyone is willing to adapt to fight COVID-19. The consistent use of non-pharmaceutical interventions (masks, hand washing and sanitising, social distancing) must become second nature for every individual and every organisation. We must all ensure that working practices are adapted to meet the health, safety, and hygiene protocols required to combat COVID-19.
The safe reopening of our economy requires behaviour change
The safe reopening of our economy requires behaviour change from all of us. Because we can expect to live with the virus for an extended period of time, we will have to change the way we conduct our lives. We need to embed the health and safety protocols, and these must become part of our everyday lives.
Tools and guidelines to expedite a safe, effective and structured return to work plan have been communicated (https://www.return2work.co.za), while additional safe transport recommendations and protocols to minimise the prospect of transmission and enable the accelerated opening of the economy have been proposed to government.
We need to quickly restore more people’s capacity to earn and enable businesses to function. Failing that, government revenue will fall further and larger-scale job losses and more business failures will become inevitable. B4SA is therefore of the firm view that the current rate of economic decline can be slowed further by a rapid progression through Level 3, while embedding health protocols throughout society in public and private sectors. There remains an absolute necessity for further swift easing of economic restrictions. This can only be done against risk adjusted and evidence-based policy, accompanied by strict health and hygiene measures across all aspects of daily life and by limiting the movement of people where practical.
Additionally, as the country’s education system enters its phased re-start process, it will place an added burden on society and business. There is an imperative to ensure that core educational content is delivered in order not to waste an academic year and, wherever possible, business must accommodate the needs of parents so that we can support learners and families with their emotional, health and safe wellbeing.
The strong and collaborative partnerships and dialogue underway between government, business, labour and civil society are resonating, and this will significantly strengthen our ability to protect the health of South Africa’s people and the economy. In the spirit of social solidarity, we also call for good governance, transparency and ethical practice from all social partners in their response to COVID-19.”
While the challenges South Africa face in addressing the COVID-19 crisis will pass, rejuvenating our economy and rebuilding society will require our collective focus in the future to accelerate inclusive economic growth and employment.
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