Mayor’s call for move back to level 4 ‘would be devastating’

Nelson Mandela Bay acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye wants the city to move back to level 4 to help curb the spread of Covid-19. However, businesses are likely to suffer with the economy damaged even further by the hardline restrictions under level 4
WORTH IT? Nelson Mandela Bay acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye wants the city to move back to level 4 to help curb the spread of Covid-19. However, businesses are likely to suffer with the economy damaged even further by the hardline restrictions under level 4
Image: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Moving Nelson Mandela Bay back to level 4 would devastate the city’s economy and job losses would drastically increase.

This is according to Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Nomkhita Mona, who was responding to acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye’s call for a more intense lockdown in the city.

This, Buyeye said, was necessary to help curb Covid-19 infections in the city.

“The increasing numbers won’t change, there is nothing more we can request from the residents which we have not requested already,” he said on Wednesday.

“That is why we are of the view that, in the Bay, a [stricter] lockdown would assist us in controlling the virus.”  

Under level 4, the sale of takeaways is only permitted for delivery only from fast food outlets and restaurants.

Automotive manufacturing, including components, can have only 50% of workers on site at a time.

This includes those in the shipbuilding, cement, construction, and hardware sectors.

Domestic support would only be allowed for live-in staff and those caring for the sick, elderly, or those with disabilities.

Buyeye and his new spokesperson, Siyanda Mxotwa, failed to respond to questions about the rationale behind such a call or what impact it would have on the economy.

Asked for comment on Buyeye’s statement, Mona said: “In simple terms, it would devastate the economy.

“Based on the research available, the negative impact associated with additional restrictions upon businesses continuity or survival as well as job retention would be unparalleled without any supplementary mitigating measures put in places such as additional government incentives and financial assistance.”

She said recent StatsSA research showed that almost 27% of businesses were expected to have had to decrease their workforce size in the first two weeks of level 3.

“If the city were to return to level 4 or 5, the percentage of locally operating businesses which would have to cut jobs would expand radically.”

She said the chamber would not support such a decision.

“We do not consider it to be risk-averse, sustainable, or in the best interest of the residents of Nelson Mandela Bay.”

She said in the first quarter of 2020 the city already lost about 10,000 jobs.

“While the full extent of restricted economic activity in the second quarter of 2020 will only be revealed in the next two to three months, we already expect an extremely negative effect even before considering the impact of returning to alert level 4 or 5.”

She urged residents to adhere to measures in place to curb the virus.

“The most critical issue at hand is the behavior of citizens. That’s where the focus should be.”

Nelson Mandela University economist Professor Charles Wait said changing to level 4 – and closing more businesses – would have no impact on curbing the virus.

“Many of these smaller businesses, such as restaurants and hairdressers, are not even operating at full capacity.”

He said the municipality should find out where the infections were spreading and focus on those areas.

“Who is to say the infections are even spreading while people are at work? It could be spread anywhere else.”

He said if level 4 happened many more small businesses would have to close down.

“They just won't have the reserves to continue, which would lead to more job losses.”

Buyeye, in his statement, said it was alarming that infections in Motherwell had now surpassed the 1,000 mark, recording a total of 1,061.

Other hotspot areas include Uitenhage with 564 cases, KwaNobuhle with 580 and Kwazakhele with 551 this week.

“A lockdown is the only way the infection rate could be controlled during the winter season,” Buyeye said.

Covid-19 disaster management forum chair Shane Brown said while the city had measures in place to assist hospitals, there was a fear of hospital beds running out.

“You can’t stop the spread of the virus if people are moving around,” he said.

“People are moving around and socialising without wearing masks, which is the most critical protective gear to fight the virus,” Brown said.

“While some people have their transport, the majority does not and they can’t use public transport as they are positive cases.”

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