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South Africa eases coronavirus lockdown: ‘People need to eat’

South Africa eases coronavirus lockdown: ‘People need to eat’

South African government decided to ease the restrictions caused by the coronavirus. As Al Jazeera says, some industries were allowed to reopen due to ‘people need to eat’. In the country, the lockdown plunged its struggling economy into turmoil as deep as never before.

As the governmental plan on gradual easing of the lockdown says, about 1.5 million workers in selected industries will be returning to work in the next phase. The only condition for such a move is strict health conditions, said Ebrahim Patel, Trade and Industry Minister.

To speed it up, Johannesburg has adopted a gradual and phased approach to reopen the country from May 1.

To avoid the collapse of the economy, South Africa has started to gradually loosen its strict COVID-19 five-week-long lockdown, allowing some industries to reopen. That unexpected long pause has plunged weak struggling economy deeper into turmoil.

President Cyril Ramaphosa took the decision to stagger the easing of the lockdown restrictions in a bid to strike a balance between protecting public health and the economy.

“Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living,” president said. “Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment.”

In fact, the economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation was already teetering when the lockdown kicked in on March 27 to contain the spread of infections.

Some businesses and industries will be reopening soon

Despite the announcement of the upcoming reopening some businesses, the local authorities warn that “Companies that breach regulations will be forced to close.” Social distancing and wearing masks in public and at workplaces will be mandatory.

Winter clothing, textile and packaging manufacturing are among the industries permitted to reopen factories. Restaurants will also open, but only for takeaway deliveries.

Bans on the sale of cigarettes and alcohol will remain in effect. Some outdoor activities such as cycling, walking and running will be allowed – but for just three hours in the morning.

Last week, President Ramaphosa unveiled an unprecedented $26.9bn economic stimulus and social relief package, amounting to about 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).