As South Africa moves towards eased lockdown restrictions from 1 May, the Department of Health has outlined why government has opted to introduce ‘lockdown levels’ as part of the phased reopening of the economy.
In a parliamentary presentation on Monday (27 April), the department indicated that the level system gives South Africa increased flexibility and allows government to respond quickly to trends in coronavirus cases.
“Restrictions on economic activity need to be adapted to epidemiological trends, and may need to be relaxed and tightened in different periods,” it said.
“An alert system should be created with clearly defined levels of restriction that can be imposed by the National Command Council as necessary.”
It would also allow the government to switch between levels with far greater speed, and it could use mass communications platforms, such as an SMS notification system, to signal this to the public, it said.
“If lockdown regulations are amended to allow some economic activity to resume, it is possible that the infection rate will accelerate and that the virus will resurge. In this scenario, it would be necessary to quickly revert to more stringent restrictions in order to arrest further transmission.
“An ‘alert system’ with four to five levels would allow for flexibility and responsiveness, and would reduce the need to amend regulations in future.”
The department also reiterated that different levels could be imposed in specific provinces and areas based on the risk of transmission.
This means that a gradual transition between alert levels can be implemented where necessary, it said.