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In the space of a few sentences from President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night, thousands of South Africans suddenly found themselves without jobs.
The hospitality sector was hardest hit – by bans on the sale of alcohol and restrictions on seated dining in restaurants – and the booze and related industries, such as farming and transport, were just as pole-axed by Ramaphosa’s lockdown announcement.
Political parties – as well as hordes of ordinary people – raged that this lockdown was too late, too harsh and too ineffective. There is merit in those criticisms.
The authorities have known for some time that a third wave of Covid-19 was on the way … and to claim, as Ramaphosa did, that government only became aware of the highly infectious delta variant days ago, is misleading.
The restrictions – especially with regard to the hospitality and tourism sector (and the booze business) – do seem like a desperate attempt to bludgeon an invisible virus with regulations.
And, given that the third wave acceleration is well under way, especially in Gauteng, community transmission of the virus is exploding – so restrictions now won’t do much to control the damage.
It is true, too, that government has failed to get the vaccination programme moving – although negative developments in that area were often beyond its control.
There has also been rampant corruption – of which the allegations against suspended health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize are the most repugnant – and incompetence, such as the failure to get the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital back on stream.
Yet, something had to be done.
People who refused to wear masks, keep to social distancing and did not sanitise – and who kept partying – had to be brought to heel. If you won’t act like an adult, don’t be surprised if you’re treated like a child.