KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala recently raised concerns about a second hard lockdown in South Africa unless there is a decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases.
“Looking at the statistics, we can now safely say that we are definitely going back into a hard lockdown if there is no urgent and drastic change in behaviour,” Zikalala said.
His comments followed a steady rise in new COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, which raised concerns about a second wave.
Other leaders have also raised concerns over the lack of compliance with current regulations that is leading to the spread of the virus.
Free State health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said people have dropped their guard. This needs to change to prevent the second wave of COVID-19 infections, he said.
Talk of a second lockdown amidst rising COVID-19 cases is not unexpected, as this has happened in many other countries.
Last week, Italy imposed harsh new restrictions while Spain announced a national night-time curfew and banned large gatherings.
Britain has also launched new regional lockdowns with gyms, bars, and casinos being closed and non-essential travel being discouraged.
Graeme Codrington, futurist and partner at TomorrowToday, said the additional lockdown measures are understandable.
He said many people still die from COVID-19 and that a high percentage of people take a long time to recover and may have lasting symptoms from the virus.
“Around 20% of people who get COVID-19 get it really seriously. Many need hospitalisation and take weeks to recover,” he said.
“There is growing concern that the people who do get it seriously have a long-term, maybe even lifelong, medical impact on their system.”
He did, however, say at this stage the comments on a second hard lockdown in South Africa is aimed at warning people rather than implement stricter measures immediately.
“If we can get back to where we started in South Africa, with scientific-based policy and citizens talking it seriously, I think we can get through this without going back to hard lockdown,” he said.
“If we don’t, this disease doesn’t care about our holidays and our mood. COVID-19 is with us for a while still.”
Talk of a second hard lockdown in South Africa has seen many people warn that it will cause severe damage to an already struggling economy.
ETM Macro Advisors founder Russell Lamberti said the lockdown has had and continues to have devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of millions of South Africans.
“I am alarmed that another lockdown is being considered after extreme government incompetence and mismanagement during the first hard lockdown,” he said.
Lamberti added that there is no good reason for ramping up lockdown restrictions as they do more harm than good.
“Lockdown restrictions increase destructive and corrupt state actions, and leave businesses floundering in a sea of uncertainty and loss of revenue,” he said.
He called on health minister Zweli Mkhize to act responsibly to avoid another humanitarian disaster.
“The minister should recommend to the president to end all lockdown restrictions immediately, lift the state of disaster, and allow people and organisations to manage their unique risks by converting all COVID-19 regulations into non-compulsory recommendations,” he said.
Dick Forslund, economist and researcher at the Alternative Information and Development Centre, echoed these views, saying it will be impossible to have a new hard lockdown.
He said more sophisticated measures like large education and awareness campaigns are better suited to address the problem.
“If they go for a hard lockdown now, I am afraid there will be even more state violence. You basically can’t do that,” Forslund said.
He added that a second hard lockdown goes against the economic recovery plans announced by the Treasury.