Government is set to make an announcement on South Africa’s lockdown restrictions this week, as the country continues to battle with a second wave of Covid-19 cases.
South Africa moved to an adjusted level 3 lockdown on 28 December, including further restrictions on the sale of alcohol, a stricter curfew and limits on gatherings.
President Cyril Ramaphosa in his announcement at the end of December said that these level 3 restrictions will remain in place until 15 January (Friday) at which time they will be reviewed based on the Covid-19 situation in the country.
In an interview this weekend, Ramaphosa said that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) met last week to discuss the pandemic, with further provincial meetings held on Sunday.
The president said that government was concerned about the continuing spike in infections.
"Cabinet will look at some of the recommendations coming from our natjoints and health department. It is then that we will be able to make an announcement to the nation," he said.
In the initial stages of the virus, we locked down the country to prepare our health systems. Our health system is robust and it did withstand the infections then. But now this is now the second wave and we have a different variant."
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is also likely to extend the country’s state of disaster by a further month as it is set to end this week.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, health experts said that another spike in Covid-19 cases could be reduced if Gauteng is moved to lockdown level 4 for a period of 21 days.
They cited concerns around an anticipated influx of holidaymakers heading back home at the end of the festive season, which could lead to a spike in cases in the country over the next three to six weeks.
The University of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Professor Mosa Moshabela said the effects of holiday travel were already being felt in Limpopo and Mpumalanga due to cross-border travel.
He said both the western Cape and KZN were approaching their peaks already, but Gauteng was still lagging behind.
"The most important thing right now is to stop new infections. Every new infection we prevent is less pressure on our limited resources – hospital beds, oxygen and our healthcare workers. If Gauteng has to move to level 4 for 21 days to prevent new infections, they should do it. We need everything at our disposal to stop new infections."
"Gauteng is so densely populated it’s already a superspreader event by design. I worry that cases in Gauteng are going to rise much higher than the peaks in KZN and the Western Cape, as we’ve already seen in the first surge.," he said.
Fullview has reported that some government officials are pushing for a level 4 lockdown at a national level, while other officials have called for the relaxation of some restrictions.
Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Police Minister Bheki Cele have recommended the country move to virus alert level 4 for 30 days, two people familiar with the matter said. They asked not to be identified as no decision has been taken.
Other officials concerned about the impact harsher restrictions might have on the economy called for the relaxation of measures including the ban on alcohol sales and the closing of the nation’s beaches, the people said.
On Sunday South Africa reported 17,421 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,231,597. Deaths have reached 33,163 (a daily increase of 339), while recoveries have climbed to 966,368, leaving the country with a balance of 232,066 active cases.