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It is absolutely imperative that the lockdown is relaxed after the Easter weekend

It is absolutely imperative that the lockdown is relaxed after the Easter weekend

What the past four weeks have shown us is that we can not endure even one more week of an economy in shutdown mode. During the first two weeks it was mostly education that was affected but bright red signals were already flashing for all businesses that depend on tourism.

During the two weeks since we have gone into lockdown, the economic paralysis has spun out of control and many businesses are now in survival mode. If we continue like this for another two weeks, I estimate we will lose about 40% of our economy.

Up until now, the statistics have been kind to us. The Namibian population at large is not under any direct threat from widespread infections. I realise we have to thank the drastic actions taken immediately after the state of emergency was declared, but I also realise that sooner rather than later, we will all realise that we have to return to work. We have to revert to as normal a life as circumstances will allow us.

The lockdown was a drastic measure and it has worked. It provided every single Namibian a clear opportunity how to adjust to life in the face of a tangible threat. But I also believe it has changed some of our social behaviour irrevocably.

No longer will it be possible to go about our daily chores without an awareness of hygiene, distancing, and a clean lifestyle. This, I think has changed for ever.

What will not change is that our children must go to school, people must go back to work, and companies must operate. This also applies to the government. We have achieved what needed to be achieved. What is needed now is a drastic shift in the strategy how we continue to keep the Corona virus in check.

Now is the time to shift our focus from containment and prevention to testing and treating. We can not remain in lockdown for ever and even if we do, the virus will not disappear. The threat of contamination will remain with us, always, so to speak. Therefore, it is logical that we change our tack and move to detection and treatment.

It is also important to remember that we are not in this alone. As I write, there are numerous (thousands) of scientist and medical researchers working on ways to contain the virus. The worldwide effort is bigger by a factor of magnitude, a thousand times more than was the case with H1N1 and SARS.

Still going by the stats, we are nowhere close to the Bubonic plague or the Spanish flu. It is inevitable that some of us will get sick but the vast majority will be treated at home. This is not an attempt to undermine what has been done so far, but rather an effort to point the way out of this.

We urgently need to relax the lockdown while we broadly keep the emergency measures in place, at least for some time. Many people say that an economy can only run on people who are alive. That is true but it is a gross oversimplification of the disease’s dynamics. It does not make sense that we come through Corona alive and then die of hunger or depression because we have nothing left.

The economy must be restarted, not only here but worldwide. If we fail to get it going again, then we have also failed to survive in the long run. This lockdown is pushing our economy into the stone age. We have to get up and start working again.


 

About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The newspaper started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at www.economist.com.na. His editorial focus is on economic analysis based on budget analysis, disecting strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored scores of journalism students as interns and as young professional journalists. He often assists economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to daniel@economist.com.na