The good news is that Gauteng is going to level 3. Now for the ...

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The good news is that Gauteng is going to level 3. Now for the bad news

Premier confirms the whole province will move from stage 4 in June, but says it’ll be ‘tough and painful’

Claudi Mailovich
David Makhura.
THE MAN WITH THE KEYS David Makhura.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Gauteng will move to a less restrictive lockdown level at the beginning of June, premier David Makhura said on Tuesday. 

Makhura addressed a virtual sitting of the Gauteng provincial legislature in which he sketched a picture of the economic devastation facing the province, which ordinarily contributes more than a third of the country’s GDP. 

SA has been under a state of disaster due to Covid-19 for more than two months, with the the majority of the time under a strict national lockdown that is being lifted in phases. The phases range from level 5 at its strictest to level 1 at its most relaxed. SA is now at level 4.

“Gauteng will be going to level 3 at the beginning of June,” Makhura said. 

He emphasised that the province would move to different levels as a whole, and not in a fragmented way, which would see metros and districts at different levels. Makhura said last week that the province was too integrated for this type of approach. 

The province was initially the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, but has benefited greatly from the lockdown that closed OR Tambo and Lanseria international airports.

He said the province could not stay at level 4 for too long, as many people did not have the means to support themselves during the crisis, while the province did not have enough resources to provide assistance indefinitely. 

In terms of food security, Makura said more than 600,000 people in the province, the most populous in SA, had received help in the form of food parcels from the provincial government since the lockdown was imposed at the end of March.

Makhura said the economic effect of Covid-19 would be like that experienced during the Great Depression in 1929. 

He said the modeling looked at the worst- and best-case scenarios in terms of job losses. The best-case scenario for the province is that almost 900,000 jobs would be lost; the worst-case scenario estimates that up to 2 million would be lost. 

Makhura warned that all modeling and projections indicate that the “road ahead will be tough and painful”. 

He said the success of the past two months was not the be-all and end-all, and that the peak of the pandemic in the province was only projected to be later this year. “We are ready for the worst of times. We will continue to build capacity for that worst of times.”

But the fate of the Western Cape – the worst-hit province in terms of Covid-19 infections and deaths – remains unclear.  Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel told eNCA he acknowledged the DA’s request to get the lockdown lifted in the Western Cape but said a “comparative analysis” spoke for itself.

“I’d like to emphasise that we must depoliticise the Covid-19 crisis,” he said. “We have to put all our historical differences aside and work hard to contain the spread of the virus. We need less grandstanding ... regarding different provinces. We’ll be taking into account the feedback from each region, then [President Cyril] Ramaphosa will make an announcement soon ...

“We are very concerned about Cape Town. It is now an enormous outlier in terms of infections. We’ve done comparative analysis between all districts and provinces and, without question, this is a worry,” Patel said.