Response by Premier Alan Winde to announcements by President Cyril Ramaphosa
The scientific reason for the Hard Lockdown and additional alert level restrictions is to slow the transmission of the virus, to flatten the curve of new infections, and therefore to ensure that our health system can provide care to every person who needs it, when they need it.
That is why, from the very beginning, I made clear that the Western Cape Government supports common-sense regulations, based on scientific reasoning. When you make decisions based on this evidence, and with full transparency, you strengthen trust, encourage collective action and form an effective social compact with the people.
The Western Cape Government has taken this very seriously. That is why we have been fully transparent with the people of this province about our challenges, why we have supported common-sense regulations that make a difference in our fight against the pandemic, and why we have always based our reasoning on scientific and medical advice.
We have also maintained that we cannot look at the Covid-19 pandemic in isolation. Every decision that we make in the fight against Covid-19 has a knock-on-effect, causing a number of other challenges that are detrimental to the well-being and health of our people.
The reality is that every single province in South Africa is now also facing a catastrophic unemployment pandemic. Millions of people are going to lose their jobs, if they haven’t already. The consequences of this jobs crisis are severe. It is causing a humanitarian crisis that will impact our poorest and most vulnerable residents. This has very real health consequence and it will also cost lives.
And that is why the Western Cape Government, in our response to Covid-19, has always said we must get the balance right. We must save lives now, but also save lives in the future too. We must slow the spread, and ready our health-systems, but we must do it in a way that still allows for safe economic activity that will help put food on the table for our residents.
This balanced approach to fighting Covid-19 remains our top priority. We did not waste a day of Lockdown in preparing our health-system for the peak of infections, and we will continue to work tirelessly to save lives. But we support doing this in a way that does not cause a humanitarian crisis that will cost lives too.
Mandatory mask wearing:
We welcome the stricter regulations around mask wearing announced by the President. Our own behavioral science research and medical advice is that mask-wearing remains one of the most effective measures in slowing the spread of the virus.
However, wearing a mask is not a natural human behaviour and it is difficult to get used to. These additional regulations will therefore make sure that mask-wearing becomes part of the “new normal” that we are faced with in the Western Cape and South Africa.
I urge all residents of the Western Cape to take these new regulations seriously for yourself, and for the safety of all those around you and I thank those who have actively take responsibility and wear their masks daily. This is an act of kindness and of solidarity which must be celebrated.
We understand that for many, masks are unaffordable and in order to help get masks to as many people as possible in the province, we will be running a Masks for Madiba campaign ahead of Mandela Day this weekend.
My wife Tracy and I will be donating 67 masks and we challenge all individuals, and corporates to help us protect the people of the Western Cape by donating new, unused masks. You can support this drive by dropping masks in boxes in 9 Dorp Street, or by heading to www.maskathon.co.za where you can pledge cash donations, as well as ready-made masks by filling out a pledge form.
We encourage everyone who can, to get involved and to challenge their friends, family and co-workers to make donations too.
We need a long-term, behaviour change approach to alcohol harms-reduction
During Alert Level 4 and Hard Lockdown, when alcohol sales were initially banned, the Western Cape saw a marked decrease in the number of murders in the province- particularly stabbings. We also saw a significant decrease in the number of admissions to our hospital facilities for alcohol-related trauma events. However, after sales were unbanned on 1 June, we saw an almost immediate and notable increase in the number of murders and a surge in trauma admissions again.
This has put additional strain on our healthcare system, especially in our high care and ICU units where we are trying to save the lives of those people infected with Covid-19.
The link between alcohol and violence is well established and a ban on alcohol sales may result in a reduction in incidents of murder, gender-based violence and trauma events such as road accidents, and assaults, and for this reason can have an immediate impact on hospital capacity.
However, this is a blunt mechanism that will negatively impact the Western Cape economy and the Agri-processing sector and will result in job losses across the province. It will also push the sale of alcohol “underground”, with less control over registered sales by our liquor authority. To put it simply, while this may help in the short term, the problem is not going to go away and a long-term ban is not feasible.
That is why we support “smart” interventions that understand that, like with Covid-19, we need a behaviour change approach if we are going to make a difference. We need to think out-side-of-the-box, and this needs to be done whether there is Covid-19 or not.
The Western Cape Government has already initiated a project to consider long-term behaviour change, and we would like this to be a pilot for the country. I will be raising this proposal with the President during our next engagement.
Ban on leisure tourism accommodation strongly opposed by Western Cape
I am deeply concerned by the effective banning of all leisure tourism accommodation as promulgated in regulations yesterday.
The tourism sector, which employs over 200 000 people in the Western Cape (direct and indirect) has been dealt a severe blow, without proper scientific evidence or reasoning to support it being excluded.
Leisure tourism accommodation that can open safely, following proper safety protocols, should be allowed to do so. We need to view the tourism sector as a partner in our Covid-19 pandemic, and work with them to adapt to this new normal.
The failure to do this will likely see the sector decimated, with more than 50% of jobs being lost. The knock-on-effect for the overall Western Cape economy will be severe.
I will be raising this concern directly with the President as a matter of urgency, and the Western Cape Government will continue to push for the safe re-opening of the tourism sector.