Vaccine rollout must now be the ‘game changer’

by Raymond Parsons: Professor at the NWU School of Business & Governance and a former special policy adviser to Busa.
The broad realities faced by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s in seeking to strike the right balance between lives and livelihoods in coping with the current serious third wave and its Delta variant should be recognised. Given where SA now finds itself with the pandemic the government had limited options available. It nonetheless is the strict enforcement by government of existing regulations and the limiting of numbers at risky large venues that also remains essential, if the present serious pandemic situation is to be turned around. These steps should be the major thrust of what is further needed regarding behavioural issues important to coping with the pandemic and not in having to shut the economy down.

However, coming so soon after the Level 3 lockdown measures imposed on June 16 cumulatively these further restrictions could now still exact an economic toll of certain sectors of the economy. It is therefore a pity that there was no indication of possible renewed support measures to offset the potential business distress and job losses that may now develop under the return to a Level 4 lockdown.

In particular, the hospitality, tourism and liquor sectors have now been subjected to new uncertainties and setbacks, which may not end after 14 days. Although there is a strong general economic ‘rebound’ underway from last year’s -7% GDP growth the economy remains brittle. Many businesses, especially SMMES, are still especially vulnerable given the economic damage arising from previous lockdowns and may not survive the latest restrictions.

It is clear from President Ramaphosa’s address that a successful vaccine rollout must now be the ‘game changer’. The fundamental solution must therefore now lie in expediting the vaccine rollout in tandem with other economic reforms. A rapid vaccine rollout which mobilizes the private sector on even a larger scale is the one single thing that could now make the major difference to lives and livelihoods. It then also makes it possible to remove lockdown restrictions sooner rather than later.

There is now ample global evidence indicating that how well countries fare post-Covid-19 will be decided by how quickly their economies and societies recover from their respective lockdowns.

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