Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize says that South Africa could introduce additional restrictions in some areas, as coronavirus cases continue to surge.
Speaking in an interview with Cape Talk on Tuesday (7 July), Mkhize said that this should include the promotion of behavioural change in communities to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
“It is possible that we might move to some kind of restrictions. No decisions have been taken yet but, certainly we are concerned about the rising numbers.
“As we speak right now, Gauteng is the one area where the number has shot up quite high. This is concerning, although we did expect them to reach these levels.”
Mkhize said that during the stricter lockdown levels, there was a high-level of compliance across the country. However, this has fallen away somewhat as the country has moved to lower levels.
He cautioned that government cannot afford to allow for non-compliance – including people not wearing masks or washing their hands – as there are ‘no other options’.
Mkhize said that the country has not yet hit capacity for ICU patients, but he said that the recent surge in cases could be problematic.
“We do understand the number of patients coming into Gauteng is increasing pretty fast, but we have not got to a point where we have run out of beds.
“What we think has been part of the challenge is that the numbers are increasing after and so we are looking at tightening the management of the distribution of hospital beds so that if there is pressure in one area they can take a person to the nearest (available) hospital.”
He said that the government was also looking at specialised field hospitals and the introduction of new staff to make up for the increased pressure on the healthcare sector.
The Gauteng provincial government says that it will not push for the return of a hard lockdown, but will instead further clamp down on activities which are not currently permitted.
This comes after the provincial government said last week that it would look at a possible “intermittent” lockdown for its hardest-hit regions.
Speaking in a media briefing on 2 July, Gauteng premier David Makhura said that the province saw an exponential rise in the number of coronavirus cases in June, as well as a significant increase in fatalities.
While Makhura said that his provincial government will continue to push for ‘behavioural change’ at a ward-level, he noted that this will likely not be enough.
“We are also making presentations to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) at reinstating some of the harsher and more stringent (lockdown) measures.
“We think there may be a case for harder localised lockdown in areas where the infection rate is getting out of hand and people are not observing the measure being put in place.”
Specific issues which are set to be discussed include:
- The sale of alcohol – including the hours when it may be sold;
- The return of more school students,
- The reopening of churches and other specific sectors.
Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku called for a hard lockdown in Gauteng, which is set to become the Covid-19 epicentre in the coming days.
On Monday, Masuku told EWN that the province is deliberating on applying stricter lockdown regulations, which have already been gazetted.
Surge in cases
As of Monday, there are now 205,721 total cases of coronavirus in South Africa. 3,310 casualties and 97,848 recoveries have been reported to date.
Two-thirds of these reported cases are in Gauteng (66,891) and the Western Cape (70,938), with Gauteng quickly becoming the country’s new coronavirus epicentre.
The province with the next highest number of cases is the Eastern Cape (38,081) which accounts for 18.5% of total reported cases in the country.
However, Mkhize indicated that the country’s ICU wards had not yet hit capacity.
“We do understand the number of patients coming into Gauteng is increasing pretty fast but we have not got to a point where we have run out of beds.”
He added that this was not a problem that was unique to South Africa and that the US, UK, France and other countries were all facing the same pandemic.