South Africa’s biggest business grouping urged the government to accelerate its phased approach to restarting the economy, days after the state began easing a strict nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus.

A safe return to work can be successfully achieved if people and businesses abide by hygiene, mask-usage and social-distancing protocols, Martin Kingston, head of the economic workgroup at Business for South Africa, said in an emailed statement. Its members include Business Unity South Africa and Business Leadership South Africa.

South Africa began relaxing the lockdown on May 1, allowing the resumption of all agricultural activities and parts of the nation’s manufacturing and mining industries. The central bank has forecast the pandemic will cause the economy to contract 6.1% this year, while Business for South Africa projects there could be 1 million job losses.

In a report that calculated the aggregate years of life lost as a result of increased poverty, a group known as Pandemic ~ Data Analysis, or Panda, said the lockdown could cause 29 times more loss of life than the disease itself.

The group, which consists of actuaries, statisticians and medical professionals, forecast the economic contraction as a result of the lockdown will result in the loss of 14 to 34 million years of life, compared with 26,800 to 473,500 years of life lost from the pandemic.

Bloomberg | Paul Richardson |