News analysis

SARS-CoV-2 lockdown
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa is waiting for a "scientific assessment" to decide if South Africa's Covid-19 lockdown should be extended – but some industries are already preparing for such an extension.
  • Manufacturers have been asked to estimate what the impact would be of a lockdown that only ends on 8 May, or on 30 May.
  • Lawyers have been asked for recommendations on changes to regulations to better serve justice if there is a Lockdown 2.0.
  • Other industries are scrambling to figure out how they could cope with a longer lockdown, or lobbying for changes to rules.
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President Cyril Ramaphosa is waiting for a "scientific assessment", due this week, on the effect of South Africa's Covid-19 lockdown before deciding whether it should be extended.

But several industries in South Africa are already scrambling to figure out what an extension would mean to them, gathering information to help inform such a choice, or lobbying for changes to the regulations that govern Lockdown Version 1.

Insiders confirmed to Business Insider that manufacturers – via a business organisation – have been polled on what the impact would be if Lockdown 2.0 were to be extended to either 8 May or 30 May. One survey went out on Wednesday.

The survey - meant to help inform Ramaphosa's decision - asked for estimates on how much of their payroll they would be able to meet, and what the impact of an extension would be not only on their operations, but on associated small and informal businesses.

Factory owners were also polled on their readiness and willingness to pay at-risk employees to stay at home if they restart production lines, to pay for private transport so workers do not have to use trains or taxis, and whether they could keep two metres of physical distance between employees at work.

Meanwhile lawyers were this week asked for suggestions on how lockdown regulations could be relaxed, in case of an extension, "in the interest of justice and rule of law".

Organisations in the health sector too said they were in near-constant contact with various umbrella organisations and government representatives on the extent to which a longer lockdown could affect their staff, services they rely on currently ranked as non-essential, and their general ability to cope with possible high demand.

Groups involved in the liquor and cigarette industries, retailers, fast-food companies, and others have apparently been lobbying – sometimes subtly, and sometimes less so – for the relaxation of restrictions on their various industries in case of an extended lockdown.

Wuhan, the city at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, this week ended a strict lockdown after more than 10 weeks. South Africa's initial lockdown has been set for three weeks.

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