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Actuaries warn Ramaphosa of a ‘humanitarian disaster to dwarf Covid-19′ if restrictive lockdown is not lifted


From: Daily Maverick (Terry Bell)

A continued lockdown is not only damaging the economy, it promises a ‘humanitarian disaster to dwarf Covid-19’ by having a severe impact on the health and well-being of millions of South Africans. That is the gist of a detailed report sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa by a specialist panel headed by actuaries.

If South Africa’s present economically restrictive lockdown measures are not discontinued immediately, they may cause 29 times more deaths than the measures aim to prevent. And each week of continuing lockdown will, in the long run, cause more loss of life than the virus itself. 

That is the stark message in a report delivered to President Cyril Ramaphosa by Pandemic Data and Analytics (Panda), a multidisciplinary initiative co-ordinated by actuary Nick Hudson, chief executive of private equity firm, SANA Partners. It describes itself as a concerned group of professionals and comprises actuaries, an economist, lawyers, a medical doctor, a data specialist and a statistics lecturer. 

The frequently voiced government mantra that lives are being prioritised and that the issue is “lives versus the economy” is described in the Panda report as a false dichotomy. The report notes: “Viruses kill. But the economy sustains lives, and poverty kills too.”

It points out that the admitted intention of the lockdown is to “flatten the curve”, to spread expected virus deaths over time, so as not to overburden hospital systems. This “saves lives to the extent that avoidable deaths are prevented, but merely shifts the timing of the rest by some weeks”. 

In a letter to Ramaphosa, delivered with the report, Panda requests “an urgent engagement with the government” to explain research that shows that the admitted economic impact of the pandemic will shorten the life expectancy of perhaps millions of South Africans. It points out that, six weeks ago, with little data available about the pandemic, “a rapid lockdown was a prudent decision”. But government should now take cognisance of “new and developing data available today”.