The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry wishes to commend President Cyril Ramaphosa for the decisive and clear direction communicated last night regarding government’s response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

He has clearly articulated government’s priority as saving the lives of our people above all else, and we commend him for this. The 21-day national shutdown action and transport restrictions are welcomed as they will change the trajectory of the disease by drastically slowing down the spread of this highly communicable disease. This will hopefully stave off the possibility of mortality which South Africa has been spared thus far.

The global and national statistics tell a chilling story very compellingly. Without swift and definitive shutdown, our economy will be further devastated and productivity compromised as casualties of the disease begin to pile up and affect businesses. South Africa cannot afford to lose skills in any sector of the economy.

We call on the business community and our fellow citizens to adhere strictly and without exception to the government directives spelt out by the President. We believe that the restrictions placed on public mobility are necessary and, combined with continued emphasis on hygiene, can assist with alleviating the full effects of COVID-19 on local businesses and the national economy. We echo the President’s call for solidarity and compassion during this challenging time and also call on the private sector to continue to resist profiteering and corruption.

The 21-day lockdown is the right thing to do and, as the business community, we support the President’s direction wholeheartedly as this is the only route that will help us not to shed jobs. We welcome the creation of a special fund that will support SMMEs and ensure that small businesses survive. The Durban Chamber also commends government on the interventions set out regarding employment tax incentives, temporary reductions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, IDC and DTI financing package, tourism sector relief package, lower interest rates and others. We look forward to unpacked details on these detailing how the benefits of the package will reach the intended beneficiaries.