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Exiting a lockdown: A balancing act of lives and livelihoods

South Africa entered unknown territory in March 2020: a complete shutdown of the economy. People moved into social isolation, anxious about the pandemic, and unsure of the economic future. The lockdown helped to contain the virus and to prepare health facilities. Yet it was not economically sustainable.

Political leaders faced a difficult choice but had no precedent to follow. How to unlock the economy responsibly – which parts, which sectors, how to balance lives with livelihoods? They needed balanced, trusted and clear advice.

Aware of the acuteness of the situation a public-private convening body reached out to Genesis for advisory work to support Presidential decision-making. We rapidly pulled together a large team, drawing on cross-disciplinary expertise and skills from across the firm: conceptual integration, framework design, economic analysis, political economy, epidemiology, surveying and data visualisation.

Our proposed solution: a risk-based approach that combined economic value at risk and transmission risk in different industries. It was drawn into a single coherent framework that mapped a path to a phased reopening of the economy. Our novel approach to balancing economic value, stress and transmission risk helped to shift thinking within government to adopt a risk-adjusted approach.

Working in the context of data paucity required us to draw on interdisciplinary expertise and systems thinking to ensure robust logic. Trust in the rigour of the work was evident in secondary requests for assistance as the government moved through the alert levels.

Our cross-disciplinary teams, uniquely combined skill sets and our approach to partnering closely with the client manifested in helping to get the economy back to work as responsibly as possible - preserving livelihoods, saving businesses and protecting thousands of jobs.

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