“It’s time for more of the Western Cape’s economy to be safely opened to save jobs”

Picture: @windealan, Facebook

At his weekly digital press conference, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde announced that he has written a letter to National Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to relax certain restrictions in the province.

“The Western Cape has passed its second wave peak. Our health platform has adequate capacity. It’s time for more of the Western Cape’s economy to be safely opened to save jobs,” stated Winde.

During his address, Winde stated the following:

  • The Western Cape’s surge has ended, and our active cases are on decline. There has been a 19% drop in Metro cases, and a 18% decline in rural cases.
  • Oxygen usage at our facilities has started to flatten and decline.
  • Our test positivity rate is on a sustained decline for now more than 2 weeks. This is a clear and robust measure that demonstrates that we are leaving our peak.
  • Our reproductive number for infection is now below 1. This is another measure that demonstrates decline and that we are leaving our peak.
  • The surge of hospitalisations has ended, and there is stabilisation. We continue to have capacity to respond and no person has been denied treatment at our facilities over this time.
  • The infection rate amongst healthcare workers has declined.

Winde continued to state that the WC government has been fighting two pandemics: one caused by Covid-19 and the other by growing poverty, unemployment and hunger.

On the economic challenges, the first fortnight of the alcohol ban is said to have cost the province’s economy about R1 billion.

“This has impacted 1 893 direct jobs in the retail sector and 905 induced and indirect jobs across the value chain resulting in 2 798 jobs being compromised. If the ban is to continue for a full month, it will end up costing the Western Cape’s economy R2 billion. This would then impact 5 596 jobs,” the premier says.

He added that the provincial agriculture department employs approximately 45 610 people in the primary stage of production and supports 228 053 people. Based on data from the Restaurant Association of South Africa, a third of restaurants had to close down either temporarily or permanently as the shortened operating hours made it difficult to continue operations, resulting in further unemployment.

Furthermore, the current beach ban is estimated to cost the tourism sector approximately R120 million per month if it is continued.

“The Western Cape’s surge has ended & new cases, oxygen usage, healthcare worker infections and test positivity on decline”

In his letter to Minister Mkhize, the Premier has asked for the following easing of restrictions:

  • Alcohol sales to be permitted offsite from Mondays to Thursdays, with sales permitted at wine farms over the weekend to support wine tourism.
  • The curfew to be from 23:00 to 04:00.
  • A closing time of 22:00 for all establishments and for onsite alcohol consumption to be permitted.
  • A lift on the current ban on beaches and other public spaces.

On the alcohol ban, Winde says, “The restrictions on alcohol sales without a doubt helped reduce alcohol-related harms over the last two weeks.”

“With that said, it is simply not possible to ban alcohol indefinitely. As set out above, the sector simply employs too many people and supports too many households for it to be shut down,” he added.

The premier says that they are not asking for a complete lifting of all restrictions. He concluded that the easing of some restrictions need to be matched with personal responsibility.