South Africa took its first shaky steps on Friday towards rolling back one of the world’s strictest COVID-19 lockdowns, seeking a balance between containing the disease and providing much-needed relief for the economy
But Africa’s most advanced economy was in a recession even before the pandemic, and the shutdown has threatened to send already rampant unemployment soaring.
Reopening the economy is proving harder than closing it down.
New regulations were finalised only on Wednesday and led to some confusion. Under the first phase of easing, only some sectors may restart operations, and with limited staff.
Restaurants, for example, can now resume business, but just for food deliveries.
Many businesses are weighing whether it is worth it to reopen at all.
“Opening for delivery only will lose Nando’s and our franchise partners more money than being closed,” said Mike Cathie, CEO of the spicy chicken chain, which has remained shut.
McDonald’s South Africa is partially reopening. Famous Brands said its Steers, Wimpy, Debonairs Pizza, Fishaways and Mugg & Bean chains would trial delivery-only service.
In the Soweto township outside Johannesburg, Sakhumzi Maqubela said he did not know if his popular sit-down restaurant would survive with just deliveries.
“I have 110 staff. I have paid them with my savings till now. I don’t think I can pay them any more,” he said.