The South African government is considering reimposing several curbs aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic as fears mount about a second wave of infections, according to three officials familiar with the situation.
The option of reintroducing the restrictions is likely to be on the table when the National Coronavirus Command Council meets this week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information hasn’t been made public.
South Africa introduced one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns on March 27, and progressively eased it to restart the economy as the number of new virus cases declined.
The trend has reversed in several areas over recent weeks, with the Eastern Cape province, in particular, showing an alarming rise in infections, and the authorities have voiced concern that the public is failing to exercise sufficient caution.
“When we fail to wear a mask at a social gathering, when we attend crowded events, we are not only putting ourselves and others at risk,” President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly newsletter published on Monday. “We are also putting our economic recovery in jeopardy.”
Of the 737,278 people diagnosed with the disease in the country so far, more than 90% have recovered, while 19,089 have died, according to health department data.
The National Coronavirus Command Council will consider inputs from a range of experts when it meets this week, and its recommendations will be presented to the cabinet on 13 November, minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said. Ramaphosa will then address the nation on the way forward later this week, he told reporters on 5 November.
The pandemic’s resurgence is posing a challenge for the country’s Independent Electoral Commission, which is holding by-elections in 95 municipal wards where councilors have died or resigned. All voting has suspended for the past seven months.
Stringent health protocols will be put in place and lines of voters will be spread out, Sy Mamabolo, the commission’s chief executive officer told reporters on Monday. Special votes will be cast on Tuesday, including several that are being held at Covid-19 isolation facilities.