Business leaders are ratcheting up pressure on South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to reopen the economy more swiftly, warning that the devastation wreaked by a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus could exceed damage caused by the pandemic itself.
Africa’s most industrialized economy was brought to a near halt on March 27 as the government sought to prevent a surge of infections swamping an already overburdened health system. Some curbs were eased on May 1 and limited commerce has resumed, but the authorities have indicated that the reopening process could span six to eight months.
“I am concerned that our government’s lockdown approach and the subsequent economic hardship inflicted on our people will cost more lives than it can save,” Andrew Lapping, the Cape Town-based chief investment officer at Allan Gray Ltd., said in a column on the money manager’s website. “Economic and human costs are two sides of the same coin. Studies indicate that mortality rates double with job losses.”