Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says that there is no ‘blueprint’ on how to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, but that government has continued to err on the side of ‘extreme caution’.
Writing in a column on News24, Mkhize indicated that South Africa will continue to follow this approach as it moves to a district-based lockdown from June.
“In the weeks to come, different areas will experience different levels of lockdown – this district-based approach is seen to be the most practical and implementable measure to balance the epidemiology of the virus with the economic risks of a continuous hard lockdown.
“We have evaluated the level of infection and noticed a wide variation across the country.”
Mkhize said that the districts with low transmissions will be put on a ‘vigilance programme’ to maintain low levels of the virus.
However, he said that those districts with high transmissions, as well as metropolitan areas, will be classified as hot spots where restrictions are necessary and strong teams of medical experts will be deployed.
“The outcome of these interventions will determine if there is a need to impose lockdown restrictions in a limited geographic district or metropolitan area,” he said.
Mkhize noted that there is a delicate balancing act in opening the country ‘too quickly’ and that some countries that had eased restrictions are closing down again after a renewed spike in infections.
“Two weeks after it appeared to have contained the virus, Lebanon experienced a surge of infections with officials now ordering a four-day, near-complete lockdown.
“In the Chinese city of Wuhan, a cluster of six new infections has emerged more than a month after the city had apparently rid itself of the disease.
“Germany, regarded as one of Europe’s success stories in efficient Covid-19 management, is now warning that some areas may have restrictions reinstated.
“If people are allowed to flood back to the way life was before, infections would surge, effectively undoing everything that has been sacrificed thus far.”
Mkhize said that South Africa’s mortality rate of 1.8% remains well below the global average, which is currently 6.6%, and the recovery rate is 42.4%, which is above the global average.
“All these achievements have been the quid pro quo for the time lost by South African citizens in lockdown. ”