As part of the City’s efforts to find innovative solutions to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic, Mayco Member for Economic Opportunities James Vos has written to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel. Vos made a request a re-assessment of which businesses are allowed to operate.
“I have also included proposals on more flexible measures to allow certain businesses to continue during these times. This is to keep the economy going to ensure we are better positioned to deal with the major economic challenges that lie ahead once the virus is brought under control,” Vos said. “While we commend the measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus and will fully cooperate with the regulations, we need to be mindful that it is potentially economically unsustainable and could ultimately lead to more disastrous unintended economic consequences.”
Some of these requests include but are not limited to:
The highly automated manufacturing businesses should be allowed to return to full capacity, with additional focus on their potential to adapt and manufacture health care items. Relaxation should be granted on the basis of the introduction of staggered shifts and/or shift working.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low. The risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a physical package is also very low. On that basis, the City has requested that the restrictions on E-commerce be eased to allow for all electronic equipment (which includes printers, scanners etc) to be sold and delivered. This would assist with virtual or remote communication, business functioning and all e-learning initiatives.
On the basis of the WHO advice that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low, the City recommends lifting restrictions on take-away businesses and restaurants offering a pick-up service. Licences to operate should be issued in instances that efforts are made to ensure food preparation and packaging are hygienic, COVID-19 conscious, and handled in line with usual food safety practices. Further protocols, in terms of collection such as telephonic orders, staggered collections and queue management, should also be implemented.
Prioritisation of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME)
Vos proposed that SMMEs, especially those who employ, for example 10 workers or less, are allowed to continue running, regardless of the sector. “They have the flexibility to pivot, adjust and demonstrate high levels of social distancing and health control, such as hair dressing salons, plumbers, electricians and specialist repair artisans. These industries employ hundreds of thousands of people who depend on salaries to keep their families going,” he said.
It is anticipated that the COVID-19 crisis will be a reality that we as South Africans will have to deal with for the next six months, if not a year.
“This requires us to continually implement different forms of lockdown protocols either countrywide or in specific locations where there is an outbreak of infections,” Vos added. “The suggestions I have made to Minister Patel should also be viewed as a way of building a ‘lockdown ready economy’ that can adjust to different states of lockdown when necessary and hopefully minimise the costs to the economy.”
We need to continue to respect and reap the current benefits of the lockdown (from a health care perspective), while introducing economic lifelines in a staggered manner,” he continued. “We have the opportunity to bolster our efforts and build on the extraordinary self-discipline the majority of South Africans have demonstrated. It is vital that we find innovative ways of both dealing with this unprecedented health crisis and avoiding the worst impacts to our economy and the livelihoods of millions of people. I hope that my proposals will be favourably received in the interest of the residents of Cape Town.”