Confusion around whether all of South Africa will move to level 3 lockdown

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has cast doubt on whether some parts of the lockdown will remain at level 4 from 1 June.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday evening (24 May), that the whole of the country will move to level 3 lockdown from next week, 1 June.

The president said that this will include the reopening of all districts, as well as key areas of the economy.

However, in a National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday (26 May) Mkhize indicated that some coronavirus hotspots may remain at level 4 based on the number of coronavirus cases reported.

The below slide from Mkhize’s presentation highlights the confusion.

In response to the confusion, a ministerial spokesperson told BusinessDay that the whole country is moving to Level 3, but there can still be a determination made on 1 June to keep certain districts at Level 4.

However, the spokesperson later backtracked and indicated that this was an error, and that Mkhize would provide clarity at a later date.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde has also indicated that he will seek clarity from president Ramaphosa about Mkhize’s presentation.

“I will seek clarity from the President on this matter as he was very clear in his address on Sunday that the whole country would move to level three, with the hot spots being re-evaluated every two weeks,” he said.

“The province has not received any direct indication from national government that this was not the case. In any province, it would be very difficult to enforce some areas remaining on level four, while others drop down to level 3.”

Hotspots 

In his presentation on Tuesday, Mkhize said that high-risk areas – classified as hotspots – will remain at level 4 with intensive implementation of screening, testing and restrictions.

He added that the country’s districts will effectively be designated in one of three ways:

  • Areas of ‘vigilance’ (less than 5 cases per 100,000 people);
  • Emerging hotspots (less than 5 cases per 100,000 people, but rapid rise);
  • Hotspots (more than 5 cases per 100,000 people).

“To determine the levels per district, the prevalence and incidence rates of each area should be calculated. However. this is currently not possible because of low testing rates and a lack of serological tests,” he said.

To accommodate this, Mkhize said that the government will take more of a statistical approach.

“In the absence of test coverage data, active cases and changes in active cases over 14 days will be used to determine the changes in rate of infection,” he said.

“To determine an ‘area of vigilance’ (less than 5 cases per 100,000) and ‘hotspots’ (more than 5 cases per 100,000), the average active case data per 100,000 population was used for the period 16 May to 22 May.”

To determine ’emerging hotspots’, Mkhize said that the government will look at whether a district, which currently has fewer than 5 cases per 100,000 population, has seen a notable increase in cases over the 14 day period.


Read: South Africa will now have 3 different coronavirus ‘hotspot levels’ – here’s how it works

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Confusion around whether all of South Africa will move to level 3 lockdown