The business sector, relieved that the country had averted another bout of lockdown restrictions, wants to be included on government’s decision-making bodies and called for greater consultation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday allayed fears of a stricter lockdown, announcing that the country would remain on Alert Level 1 with mild restrictions.
Ramaphosa said the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) had decided to not impose further restrictions, for now. Instead government’s vaccination drive would be ramped up to reduce the impact of a looming fourth wave of Covid-19 amid the detection of Omicron variant.
Business Leadership SA chief executive Busi Mavuso appealed to the government against scoring any own-goals with its efforts to manage the pandemic by consulting stakeholders.
“Unfortunately, in previous measures, business has been taken by surprise and regulations have caused unnecessary damage,” Mavuso said.
“Government needs to understand the consequences of different policy options and business needs to be fully informed to be able to plan to minimise consequences.”
Vinpro, a non-profit company representing nearly 2 600 wine producers, said consultation was key to addressing the myths around Covid-19.
Managing director for Vinpro Rico Basson, said they were continuously engaging with the government to provide the necessary information on making fact-based decisions regarding trade restrictions, and other policy decisions.
“It is extremely important that the government consults thoroughly and is informed about the impact that any decisions regarding Covid-19 and possible restrictions may have on the respective sectors, their workforce and communities,” Basson said.
Business believes that restrictions are not effective against the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and that the answer lies in increasing theuptake of vaccinations.
The SA Liquor Brand Owners Association (Salba) chief executive, Kurt Moore said the economic recovery of the alcohol, tourism and hospitality sectors was paramount to protect employment and to return the economy to pre-Covid levels.
“We recognise that the vaccine response can and should run in parallel with economic recovery,” Moore said.
Ramaphosa also announced a task team to undertake broad consultations on making vaccinations mandatory for specific activities and locations.
This includes making vaccination a condition for access to workplaces, public events, public transport and public establishments, while booster jabs may soon commence for certain populations.
This call was strongly supported by Business for South Africa (B4SA).
“We need to rapidly move to a situation where only vaccinated individuals should be allowed to travel in buses, taxis and airplanes, or to eat and drink in indoor establishments such as restaurants and taverns,” said Martin Kingston, B4SA chairperson.
The travel and tourism industry has also followed suit and welcomed the decision to accelerate the vaccination campaign vigorously.
The local tourism and hospitality sector lost more than R1 billion in travel bookings for travel between December and March 2022 as a result of the travel bans against South Africa by several countries after the discovery of the omicron variant.
Economists at the Bureau for Economic Research said the likely further rise in Omicron-driven Covid-19 cases, the threat of a stricter lockdown and the sudden tourist cancellations placed additional downside pressure on fourth quarter economic growth.
“Depending on the length and severity of the domestic fourth wave, this may also have adverse spillover effects into economic activity during the first quarter of 2022.”
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE