Western Cape peak has passed, so what now? Province pinpoints possible stressors - Republik City News

, Republik City News

  • A Western Cape government strategist urged social cohesion to prevent a predicted rise in crime.
  • Assistance with mental and emotional health recovery from the pandemic is also going to be vital.
  • Continued cooperation between all spheres of government will be important to recovery.

The Western Cape has passed its first Covid-19 peak, but is now planning to deal with the fall-out from the lockdown and the global pandemic.

According to one strategist, social cohesion will be key.

A Western Cape government strategist warned of a possible rise in crime, school dropouts and malnutrition during the post Covid-19 period, and stressed that social cohesion is vital to prevent this.

“There is another pandemic happening. There is an economic, a jobs bloodbath, happening out there,” said Dr Hildegarde Fast, head of strategic planning, during a digicon on Wednesday.

“How bad is it really? The answer is: ‘It is very bad’,” she said, as the province starts mapping the road to recovery.

Last week, Premier Alan Winde quipped that the pre-pandemic five-year-plan would have to be thrown out of the window, given the sudden high rate of unemployment. He also projected a dip in government income.

He has called for a reopening of the economy to prevent further socio-economic damage as a result of the lockdown. He said everybody had supported it initially, but now it is time to lift it.

The head of health in the province, Keith Cloete, said case numbers are declining, with beds to spare, but surveillance and case containment will continue until a vaccine eventually becomes available.

However, people need to keep up the behaviour change of hand washing, mask wearing and cleaning surfaces.

Fast said that, during the pandemic, statistics show that the poorest 10% of people in South Africa had experienced a 55% income loss so far.

In 2018, 25% of people surveyed said they had run out of money to buy food, but this is estimated to have spiked to 47% during the pandemic.

Food insecurity for children, which was estimated to be at 8% in 2018, had increased to 15%. 

She explained that this figure is lower for children, simply because adults go hungry so their children can eat.  

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The Western Cape also has a “double burden” with obesity.  

At least 11.9% of children in the province surveyed before Covid-19 were underweight because they did not eat enough.

In addition, in children between the ages of two to 14, 26% of females and 22% of males were overweight, with 15% of adults overweight due to the consumption of cheap food, with low nutritional value. 

She said, before Covid-19, the country was already in serious trouble because of a shrinking economy.

With the national economy predicted to contract by 7.2% during 2020, employment is expected to drop further.

The tourism sector in the province is expected to lose 104 000 jobs (60% of the sector); the construction sector is expected to lose about 41 000 (26%) of its jobs, with a R12 billion loss in gross value; and the informal sector is expected to lose 38 246 (13%) of its jobs.

Export market share in the province’s wine industry had been lost during the hard lockdown as competing countries took the gap. It will be difficult to get this back.

She said that studies show an epidemic also leads to an increase in inequality and deprivation, which leads to violence, particularly among the youth.

“What we are anticipating is that murders could increase by between three and four percent,” she predicted. 

Globally, there were increases in reports of gender-based violence of between 20 to 75% – but, in South Africa, there was a decrease in reported calls and cases. 

Researchers do not know yet whether this was because people did not know how to use helplines or were afraid to leave the house to report it, or whether referral systems were effective, because NGOs had received an increase in the number of reports made. 

The NGOs noted that gender-based violence, which came to their attention, had become more severe during the pandemic, with more aggressive behaviour due to stress.

There are also fears of school dropouts, after the number of schooling days dropped by 25% for Grades 7 and 12; 41% for Grades 1,2,3,6,10 and 11; and 57% loss for Grades 4,5,8 and 9 in the province. 

The worry about school dropouts is that it will make job hunting more difficult.

She said a “disengaged” youth, with no hope, could be a problem.

Fast also predicted an overall increase in the number of people who are depressed, which will affect productivity, and an increase in child-headed households. 

She said social cohesion across all sectors of society will be vital in the post Covid-19 recovery period, especially to deal with mental health, to prevent violence, to support pupils to get through matric, and for people to get food.

Fast cautioned against starting infrastructure projects just for the sake of creating jobs, saying the projects selected must be state-worthy and state-ready.  

“Then you would ask, how much money do we have? The answer is, a lot less than we need to,” said Fast.

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