COVID-19 lockdown causing more economic damage than the virus

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As the southern African region battles against the COVID-19 pandemic together with the rest of the world, lockdowns have proved to be effective in curbing the spread of the virus in the region.

This comes as countries like Namibia, Seychelles and Mauritius among others have since lifted lockdown restrictions after witnessing positive developments.

Namibia had 16 during the lockdown period and it managed to get 14 recoveries during the same period. 

Similarly Seychelles and Mauritius which had 11 and 332 confirmed cases respectively, and are now having zero cases each. Mauritius had 322 recoveries and 10 deaths.

Although the lockdown has proved effective, the region still has an economy to run, people need to work and earn a living.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), it is estimated that more than 72% of total employment in sub-Saharan Africa is in the informal sector.

This is evident that the majority of the people are in the informal sector which is currently regarded as a non-essential service. These people are living on a hand to mouth existence, they  don’t know where the next meal is coming from.

Their food is brought on the table with money they earn from daily activities and being told not to leave home means that their families may not have food on the table.

Some other SADC Member States do not have social welfare systems to cover those who might lose their jobs as a result of lockdown measures. According to Tax Justice Network-Africa (TJNA), the pandemic has led to massive payoffs and non-payment of wages, pushing many workers into unemployment, poverty and starvation.

In our last week’s edition we carried a story on how South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was under immense pressure to end that country’s lock down amid mounting fears that the lockdown could have placed his country in an irreversible path to a deeper recession.

The pressure has also spread to other member states where citizens are already concerned over food shortages particularly those who rely on informal trading.

Maybe it is time for the Member States who are on strict lockdown measures to ease them up in order to ensure that economic activities by people in the informal sectors continue.

The region can also take notes from Tanzania which never enacted strict lockdown measures as compared to other Member States. The country has 509 confirmed cases, 183 deaths and 21 recoveries. Some may argue that the deaths may have been lover if the lockdown measures were in place.

However, Tanzanian President and current SADC Chairperson-John Magufuli adopted a motto that prioritises the economy first before anything else and he portrays COVID-19 as a crisis that we will learn to live with just like HIV and Aids.

His country never closed borders because of his belief in the integration of regional economies. Reports shows that this was mainly for other surrounding countries who rely on Tanzania for food daily not to suffer. Magufuli strongly believes that his fellow Tanzanians should continue working during the pandemic and added that next year some of the countries in lockdown will come look for food in Tanzania.

We understand the Member States are caught in between a rock and a hard place; remain locked to fight COVID-19 and on the other side ease restrictions for the sake of the economy, and saving people from dying of hunger.

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