COSATU notes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of additional measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic over the Easter period, South Africa’s second most important holiday and a moment for families to gather.
The government’s vaccine rollout plan, remains exactly that, a plan. Four months into 2021, only 250 000 people have been vaccinated. The government has failed to meet even the timid vaccine targets it had set belatedly.
Other countries, including in Africa, have moved far ahead with rolling out their vaccine plans. The United States is vaccinating more than a million people a day. Consequently, South Africans are now banned from traveling to virtually every country. This will devastate the tourism industry, a sector that employs more than a million South Africans.
The repeated delays and lack of actual vaccines are simply inexcusable when the lives of thousands of people are at risk. These delays come with additional preventable deaths. There can be no condoning of this degree of reckless incompetence on the part of the government. This mediocre performance is unacceptable and the government’s napping on the job has real consequences.
The economy and nation cannot sustain lockdowns or periodic shutdowns indefinitely. The Unemployment Insurance Fund does not have limitless funds. The President needs to intervene in the vaccine program and provide concrete details and dates on when vaccines will be received. It is only once the population has been vaccinated, that the economy will be able to recover.
Additional Health and Safety Measures Over the Easter Period
COSATU hopes the additional measured restrictions on alcohol sales will ease pressures on hospitals without having the same devastating impact that a complete ban on sales would have. The increase in the size of religious and other gatherings is a fundamental blunder that will very likely cause an increase in the spread of the pandemic.
The heart of this pandemic is social interaction and increasing the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings is a guaranteed recipe for superspreaders. This increase was unnecessary because the restrictions in gatherings have negligible impacts on the economy, and far less than a third wave will have. This is a decision that will very likely come back to haunt us as international experience has shown time and again.
The government needs to spend much more effort in the enforcement of restrictions. Too many South Africans roam the streets, sit in shebeens, travel in taxis without a mask in sight.
Economic and Social Relief
The government needs to do more to provide economic and social relief for distressed workers, the unemployed, and the economy. Too many people are struggling and forced to go home without money to feed their families.
The UIF Covid-19 relief needs to continue for those vulnerable workers like over 60 years of age or with co-morbidities who cannot legally return to work. The R350 Covid-19 grant needs to be extended for the unemployed. Treasury and the banks need to honour the President’s commitment to revamp the Loan Guarantee Scheme. An economy on its knees cannot recover on its own; it needs to be lifted and supported.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794