President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to brief the nation next week on South Africa’s lockdown strategy around the coronavirus pandemic. Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu on Thursday (5 November) said the briefing will be based on a cabinet meeting and suggestions provided by the National Coronavirus Command Council which are to be held later this week.
Mthembu added that the cabinet was very concerned that South Africans have grown indifferent in their response to the pandemic and are no longer following lockdown regulations. “Cabinet is concerned that some people are behaving recklessly and irresponsibly as if Covid-19 no longer exists,” he said.
“Cabinet calls on all people in South Africa to continue adhering to the health protocols of practising social distancing, wearing masks in public and washing our hands with water and soap or an alcohol-based sanitiser, and avoid large gatherings.” Mthembu said that responsible behaviour will ensure that the country minimises the rates of infections whilst it struggles to rebuild the failing economy.
Several senior government officials have warned of an increase of coronavirus infections in parts of South Africa, with health systems facing further strain. South Africa reported 1,712 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday (4 November), taking the total reported cases to 730,548. Deaths have reached 19,585 while recoveries have climbed to 660,185, leaving the country with a balance of 50,778 active cases, and a recovery rate of 90%.
This week Thsonono Buyeye, acting executive mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, said that the reintroduction of a hard lockdown in the metro, while not ideal, will be considered if it can save more lives. “A harder lockdown is not ideal, but to save lives the option might need to be explored again as the numbers are increasing rapidly. In just one day this week, we had close to 400 new infections. Unfortunately, the infections go with deaths and we have seen the deaths in the country have surpassed the 19,000 mark,” Buyeye said.
The acting mayor added that the reason for the city seeing a second wave in coronavirus cases was due to non-compliance with current health and safety regulations. The NMB government’s comments follow similar sentiments from KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala, who warned that a return to a hard lockdown is on the cards, unless the country sees a decline in the number of daily coronavirus 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,” the premier said. President Ramaphosa however dismissed ‘rumours’ that South Africa is returning to a hard lockdown, but he said there are worrying trends related to Covid-19 infections, such as super spreader events.
“As South Africans we need to adhere to the measures that have been put to us by the medical advisory committee,” he said. “In the coming days…I will be able to address the people of South Africa about what we now need to do in the light of what we are going through,” he said at the end of October.