The Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) South African hub has joined in calls for the South African government to speed up the re-opening of the building sector.
A coalition of professional industry bodies – called the Construction Covid-19 Rapid Response Task Team (CCRR19TT) – advocates a phased re-opening to soften the impact of the pandemic by creating employment for construction workers.
It wants to follow the example of gradual re-opening seen in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, China and Italy.
South Africa has been credited for managing the coronavirus well relative to other countries. Among a population of 57 million, there have so far been 17,200 recorded cases and 312 deaths.
President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a strict lockdown on 27 March.
Scientists advising the government this week warned of the possibility of a sharp rise in cases by the end the year following an easing of the lockdown.
But CCRR19TT believes the industry has adapted to Covid site safety, and has set out a roadmap for restarting construction starting with sites that have low population density, easy access to the site, and opportunities to control the movement of workers.
Projects already started or close to starting should be the first to come out of lockdown, the group said.
The rest of the industry could then re-open from the end of May.
"It was necessary for the industry to cease all operations at the time and there is no doubt that the decisive action taken by the government significantly contributed towards flattening the curve of new infections," said CCRR19TT chair John Matthews, who is president of Master Builders South Africa and Group CEO of Garden Cities.
"We used this period to adapt health and safety systems to ensure we safeguard the health of employees on construction sites. We have also identified qualifying the construction sites that are ready for immediate re-activation."
Petra Deveraux, the CIOB’s regional manager for sub-Saharan Africa, said: "The CIOB recognises the importance of re-opening construction in South Africa, and the benefits this could have to the economy in the region, while maintaining a safe environment to begin working again. A fast and strict lockdown has allowed South Africa to gradually begin re-opening, and we hope that the construction industry can pave the way to bringing some normality back to the region."
Image: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a BRICS summit in Brazil, November 2019 (Palácio do Planalto/CC BY 2.0)