Independent business association, Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), has called on government to urgently lift existing lockdown restrictions as it believes the country cannot afford any further constraints to economic activity.
“The country simply cannot afford to continue operating with further restrictions. Doing so will delay any meaningful economic recovery, with more businesses being forced to close down and more jobs being lost. It’s imperative for every facet of the economy to be able to function to the fullest extent possible within the scope of the health protocols,” reads the BLSA statement.
In a blog post, Executive Director of BLSA, Busi Mavuso, said South Africa’s unemployment rate probably surged to 35% in the second quarter, according to the median of eight economists’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey.
She said COVID-19 had significantly disrupted the South African economy in a number of ways, some that may only become clear later on.
“With an economy already in recession before March, most sectors are going to emerge from this period derailed if we don’t act in unison in developing a recovery plan that will recast this economy for higher growth.”
‘Tourism can reignite SA’s economy’
One industry in particular had the power and potential to reignite South Africa’s ailing economy, but to do so it was going to need more than support from South Africans and government giving the green light for reopening borders, said Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.
South Africa’s tourism sector employs 1.5 million people directly and indirectly, 70% of whom are women. As an export sector, it generates R120bn (€6bn) in foreign exchange from visitor receipts, 8.7% of South Africa’s exports, and is second only to mining as an export sector.
“Tourism can be South Africa’s economic lifeline, but only if international borders are opened up, and soon,” said Tshivhengwa.
To this end, BLSA has advocated for the blanket ban on international travel to be replaced with a more targeted approach.
- Allowing all visitors in from certain countries where infection rates are under control.
- For other countries, enforce a 14-day quarantine period, with testing.
- Lift all restrictions on outbound travel and apply the same protocols to returning travellers: quarantine and testing if they visited a high-risk area.
‘Tourism poses no greater risk’
“There is no reason why tourism poses a greater risk than any other sector by being open,” said Professor Alex van den Heever, Chair in the field of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at the Wits School of Governance.
“We can’t just shut everything down. The main issue is preventing super spreading by being careful and attentive to any instances where protocols need to be updated or where protocol adherence is a problem,” he explained.
According to Van den Heever, if good protocols are adhered to, South Africa should be able manage the risks posed by COVID-positive travellers as well as those situations where travellers can be infected within South Africa’s borders.
He reiterated that South Africa should, as far as possible, avoid the requirement of a quarantine period. “It is imperative that safe alternatives to quarantine approaches also be considered. Careful consideration needs to be given to developing such an approach as it will remove a considerable barrier to international travel.”