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St Andrews
Eastern Cape may face harsher restrictions

Eastern Cape may face harsher restrictions

After considerable amounts of speculation regarding a move to Level 3 lockdown in the Eastern Cape, it’s time to put the rumours to bed and be sure about what lies ahead.

While the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) has asked Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to play open cards regarding a possible move for the province, the National Health Department has, to a certain extent, set the record straight.

National Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja told The South African on Monday 30 November 2020 that a move to Level 3 lockdown does not depend on Mkhize or the health department alone. He said any decision regarding tighter lockdown restrictions would depend on the National coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), as well as, Cabinet.

Maja said the situation in the Eastern Cape is no doubt a “really huge concern,” however, a move to Level 3 lockdown has not yet been confirmed.

“I’m not able to confirm whether it is true or not true,” he said when asked whether Level 3 lockdown would be implemented or not.

Maja said that if a certain area is moved to a different lockdown level — in this case Level 3 — he said it would be announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

So, as it stands, a definitive move to Level 3 has not yet been confirmed but the idea of it cannot be ruled out completely either. According to the health department, it looks as though a decision will only be announced at the next “family meeting” with Ramaphosa.

Just 10 days ago, on 20 November 2020, Mkhize released the daily COVID-19 statistics. He said he was concerned as the daily new cases breached 3 000. He also said more than half of the new infections emanated from the Eastern Cape leading to “troublesome waters”.

“Of these new cases, more than half (54,4%) are from the Eastern Cape. We are also concerned that the positivity is at 12%, which is higher than what is ideal, i.e. 10% or less,” he said.

“Our concern is that this is a new wave we’re seeing in the Eastern Cape, it will still be classified as a cluster outbreak,” he added.

FF Plus MP and chief spokesperson for Health Philip van Staden said Mkhize must play open cards with the people of the Eastern Cape, as well as, the rest of the country about the possibility of a Level 3 lockdown for the province.

“The FF Plus was dismayed to find out via the media yesterday that the Minister had already discussed the matter with businesspeople, politicians and others in the province and that they had reportedly agreed on a possible Level 3 lockdown,” he said.

“It is disappointing to find out about this in this way, through the media reporting on the statements of a leading figure in the ANC, as the Minister said on Friday after the relevant meeting that had taken place in Port Elizabeth that no decisions on the matter have been reached,” added Van Staden.

Van Staden said Mkhize is playing a dangerous game. He said when issues first arose in the province earlier this year, Mkhize and the province’s MEC for Health tabled an intervention plan to the Portfolio Committee on Health in Parliament. He went on to say that the plan, clearly, was never implemented.

“Now that there is a rise in infections, Minister Mkhize wants to put the Eastern Cape back under Level 3 lockdown. This is all because neither the provincial Department nor the national Department or the Ministry of Health did anything to address and solve the problem earlier,” he said.

“The FF Plus is, thus, imploring Minister Mkhize not to follow this route and instead to focus on improving the healthcare system by appointing more doctors and nurses, ensuring that there is enough medicine and equipment available to protect healthcare workers and strengthening the hands of those who are in the frontlines in the fight against the pandemic,” he added.


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