Covid-control measures killing in more ways than medical

Tragic as it is to read the daily death toll of the Covid-19 virus, another horror risks being forgotten – the collateral deaths wrought by the pandemic and the associated measures taken to control its spread – the collapse of thousands of small, medium and micro-enterprises across the country.

The Western Cape, a world tourism destination, has been particularly hit by the blanket closure of liquor outlets, the ban on alcohol sales and the mindless closure of beaches – the one place where social distancing occurs naturally and can be controlled.

The collateral damage of these actions have been devastating to hundreds of business, from restaurants, licensed bars and saloons to boutique wine farms and bed and breakfast establishments throughout the region and the country.

This draconian action taken for reasons bordering on panic rather than careful thought is having long-term consequences that will be felt years after the pandemic ends—as it will.

Hundreds of families have lost their breadwinners. Millions in tax revenues have been lost. By some estimates it will take at least five years from the end of the pandemic to a time when we can begin to approach the employment levels the Western Cape enjoyed in 2018.

The evidence of this disastrous bludgeoning of the economy is well known to the Treasury, to the private sector generally and surely must be available to those in Government now ruling by decree.

The dangers of this are apparent to everyone. They are ringing a death knell for hundreds of jobs and business in the Western Cape and beyond it borders.

It is why the Cape Chamber heartily endorses the appeal by the Western Cape Government to extend financial help to those struggling to avoid the death of their business in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

As the Western Cape finance and economic opportunities MEC David Maynier has said, the provincial government has focused on getting the balance right between preventing the spread of Covid-19 while keeping the economy as open as possible.

Before it is too late, the Covid Command Council should think the same way to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Extending the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Covid-19 financial support for the extended lockdown period will be a good start.