As Covid-19 cases rise, Western Cape works on economic revival plans

18 May 2020 by Suné Payne

As South Africa prepares to move into lockdown Level 3, the Western Cape reached nearly 10,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday 17 May. But in the week ahead, the health focus will change to an economic one, especially with a focus to get business and other sectors running again, albeit differently.

An estimated R1-billion is lost daily in the Western Cape during the lockdown, said the provincial Department of Finance and Economic Opportunities. 

As South Africa prepares to go to Level 3 restrictions, one question remains: how do you reopen sections of the economy when you’re the province with the highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country?

“Discussions are important going into the next weeks,” said the MEC responsible for finance and economic opportunities, David Maynier, on Friday. 

Maynier, the provincial departments of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Economic Development and Tourism as well as the national departments of Small Business, and Employment and Labour appeared before the Western Cape legislature’s Covid-19 oversight committee, to give an update on economic relief and sustainability during the lockdown.

Speaking about the work of the economic cluster during the Covid-19 lockdown, Maynier said that staff and other officials were “working around the clock in supporting businesses in the Western Cape… there’s still much work to be done going forward”. 

And going forward would be a massive challenge. With tourism being a key revenue spinner as well as a key employment provider in the province, Maynier said there was a ministerial meeting with Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and the other eight MECs last week, where there were discussions on “work to open up this sector under Level 3”.

Currently, flights – both domestic and international – are banned, unless for international repatriation and cargo shipments. Suggestions, Maynier said, include “open up some attractions and restaurants but under strict workplace protocols”, but nothing is confirmed until regulations for Level 3 are gazetted by the national government.

Maynier also said the economics cluster was doing hard work. Part of the hard work was to develop an economic recovery plan for the province. 

“The Economic Recovery Plan is a work in progress and is based on various scenarios and modelling of economic situations depending on the length of lockdown and epidemiological outcomes,” said department head Rashid Toefy. Key outcomes for this economic recovery plan included looking at ways to support economic growth, minimise the impact and effect of the lockdown, provide guidance and advice to businesses and communicate and provide information. 

In the meantime, while talks are underway between the government and the various sectors, the province’s confirmed cases of Covid-19 are steadily increasing.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has called for the entire province to move to Level 3, despite the steady increase in confirmed cases. 

On Sunday, 17 May the province reported 9,246 confirmed Covid-19 cases. With the province’s Whole of Government Targeted Hotspot Plan in place to target specific hotspots, Winde said in a statement: 

“Our hotspot plan is systematically addressing infections in nine geographic locations in the province, using the skills, data and experience available across government departments. We are working with the other spheres of government, law enforcement, NGOs and faith-based organisations; however, we cannot do this work alone. 

“It requires every one of us to step up and take responsibility to ensure that we are actively doing everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones. This is how we will stop the spread.”

Source: Maverick Citizen at https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-05-18-as-covid-19-cases-rise-western-cape-works-on-economic-revival-plans/