Alan Winde. (Photo: Jaco Marais)
- Alan Winde says data along with the current status of the Western Cape’s health platform showed that moving to stricter regulations “at this stage would not achieve the balance we need to save both lives and livelihoods”.
- The province continued to show a decline in Covid-19 cases while admissions and deaths, as well as the proportion of positive tests were “stable” at 5.1%.
- The ANC’s Cameron Dugmore, however, says the DA “always chooses the economy over lives, no matter what the risks of a third wave are”.
A move to Level 2 Covid-19 restrictions over the upcoming Easter period is not supported by provincial statistics and will undermine the Western Cape’s economic recovery, Premier Alan Winde maintained on Tuesday.
Data and the current status of the province’s health platform showed that moving to stricter regulations “at this stage would not achieve the balance we need to save both lives and livelihoods”, he said in a statement.
“I am particularly worried that it will level another devastating blow to our tourism and hospitality economy in the Western Cape, which is under immense pressure currently, and which needs this upcoming holiday period to recover,” Winde said.
“One must also consider that there are currently numerous restrictions in place under Alert Level 1, which need to be properly enforced to ensure compliance with important health protocols.”
He said his administration would “continue to do everything we can to ensure we delay a possible third wave for as long as possible”.
“We fully agree that this period is a major risk and that every single person, family, business, and civil society grouping has a role to play. Personal responsibility is going to be critical over the next few weeks.”
The ANC’s Cameron Dugmore, leader of the official opposition in the Western Cape Legislature, said just like a decision had to be made about the best way to curb the pandemic over the Christmas period, so too a decision has to be made about the best way to prevent super-spreader events over the Easter weekend. He argued it was “clear that some additional measures will be needed”.
“The DA always chooses the economy over lives, no matter what the risks of a third wave are. We need to ensure that our country participates in Easter in a way which does not increase risks of infection.”
Good Party secretary-general and Member of the Provincial Legislature Brett Herron said the provincial health department has expressed concern about another spike in cases over the Easter and Ramadan period.
“When the premier says he is listening to the science, it’s clear he is listening selectively and he is not listening to his own health professionals who have done a sterling job and should be taken seriously,” he said.
“We must minimise the extent of any restrictions as much as possible but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that there is a massive risk of a spike in cases with the long weekend ahead.”
According to Winde, the Western Cape government’s response to the pandemic has “from the very beginning been based on data, evidence and science”.
“We have also always maintained that a balance must be achieved in saving both lives and livelihoods in our province. This is because a humanitarian crisis caused by economic restrictions will also cost lives in the Western Cape and South Africa.”
He said the data on its health platform continued to show a decline in cases while admissions and deaths in the Western Cape – although it is starting to plateau – and the proportion of positive tests were “stable” at 5.1%.
“Cases in the Cape Metro declined by 20%. Cases in the rural districts overall have declined by 26%,” he said.
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The occupancy of Covid-19 beds in the metropole is 15%, 16% in the George drainage area, 21% in the Paarl district and 23% in the Worcester drainage area.
“There are just 27 patients at the Brackengate Hospital of Hope (338-bed capacity) [and] just 41 patients at the Mitchells Plain Hospital of Hope (200-bed capacity),” Winde said.
“This data, overall, demonstrates a health platform that currently has the capacity to respond to Covid-19.”
The province’s economy was hit hard in 2020 and is only now starting to “see signs of a delicate recovery”.
“According to Wesgro’s research, net job losses in 2020 exceeded 150 000 in the Western Cape. Almost all the top tourism attractions in the Western Cape reflected a more than 60% drop in visitors over the peak tourism season in December,” he pointed out.
“The Easter period is very important for domestic tourism in South Africa and limiting demand now will result in even more job losses. Nearly 30% of restaurants surveyed have closed temporarily or permanently, based on data from the Restaurant Association of South Africa.”
Winde said an industry impact report by Cape Town Tourism, released in February 2021, showed that 68% of businesses surveyed have already let staff go and 83% have implemented pay cuts.
“The same report found that of those businesses that are still operating, 68% are relying on the domestic market to keep their doors open, given low demand by international travellers.
“The first two bans on alcohol have already resulted in an estimated 165 000 job losses countrywide, and this sector is important for sustaining agri jobs in the Western Cape.”
He said his administration would continue its numerous interventions, including working with religious groupings through its Faith-Based Organisation Network to “ensure the behaviour change needed”.
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