South Africa extends state of disaster ahead of expected move to level 1 lockdown

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet has approved the extension of South Africa’s national state of disaster to 15 October 2020.

Government declared a national state of disaster under Section 27(1) and Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act on 15 March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the state of disaster was originally set to lapse on 15 June, the act provides that it may be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister for a month at a time before it lapses.

An official directive confirming the extension has not yet been gazetted by Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

“Cabinet welcomes the drop in the number of new confirmed Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks and the improved recovery rate that has increased to 87%,” it said in a statement on Thursday (10 September).

It said that the number of people requiring admission in hospitals and the demand for Covid-19 tests have also dropped.

“Let us build on the momentum of this encouraging news and continue to work together to consistently do the right things, such as practising social distancing, wearing a mask when in public, and washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.”

South Africa reported 2,007 new cases on Thursday, taking the total reported cases to 644,438. Deaths climbed to 15,265, following a 24-hour increase of 97 fatalities, while recoveries have climbed to 573,003, leaving the country with a balance of 56,170 active cases.

Global Covid-19 infections have hit 27.9 million confirmed cases, with the death toll reaching 904,000.

Level 1 lockdown?

The extension of South Africa’s state of disaster comes after president Cyril Ramaphosa said that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is evaluating a number of proposals around the further easing of lockdown restrictions.

The president told the South African National Editors’ Forum on Wednesday evening (9 September) that one of the requests he received was from religious leaders, specifically around extending the number of people which may attend gatherings.

The president said that the NCCC is also considering requests from the sporting fraternity, the entertainment sector, hotels and tourism.

“We are considering all of that as we do an evaluation of where the infection rate is. We will be able to give consideration to all of these proposals and get advice.

“This is where we will need advice from the Medical Advisory Committee as well as from our Natjoints which is the real engine of monitoring our coronavirus approach. So we will be giving consideration to all that.”

Ramaphosa indicated that he will further address the nation next week on a range of issues. “Watch this space next week (as to) where we end up as a nation in as far as this is concerned,” he said.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says that South Africa will need to move to a level 1 lockdown and a return to ‘normal activities’ as part of its economic recovery.

The minister said that it was too early to provide a date as to when the country could move to a level 1 lockdown, but he confirmed that the government was currently discussing the issue.

“The president will come out in the next few days and give us a sense of direction, but we will be preparing for people to start easing to the next level. When that has been announced we will, of course, move onto that level, but it has not been decided yet.”

Read: What are the chances of another rate cut in South Africa next week?

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South Africa extends state of disaster ahead of expected move to level 1 lockdown