Government’s Covid-19 advisor on moving South Africa to a harder lockdown

South Africa’s overall coronavirus statistics show that the country is doing ‘incredibly well’ in its response to the pandemic, and there is no need for concern, says chairperson of the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee, Professor Salim Abdool Karim.

Speaking to Jacaranda on Wednesday (11 November), Karim said that while new daily infections may be coming in quite high, it was important not to look at daily coronavirus statistics – which may show variations – but rather to look at the statistics across a seven-day average.

“If you look at a seven-day average, we have been pretty steady and going reasonably well. We had a bit of an incline but it has (now) settled down and the situation now is that we have local transmission at a pretty local level.”

Karim said that the country has seen some outbreaks in recent weeks – particularly in parts of the Eastern Cape. However, he said that these outbreaks appear to be under control following an initial spike in infections.

He said that that his advice at this stage of the epidemic is to continue with the current lockdown restrictions as they are.

“We are at this stage in a pretty good position overall in the epidemic, there is no need for us to change anything in my view. There is a problem, which is December – when December comes, people are going to move around a lot and this virus loves movement.”

However, Karim said that a bigger problem is that South Africans are growing increasingly complacent in their response to the dangers of the coronavirus.

He said that people are dropping their guard and not wearing their masks – a phenomenon not unique to South Africa, as the entire world faces ‘pandemic fatigue’.

Karim said that this fatigue, combined with increased movement, drinking and partying during the December holidays is cause for concern.

“We are heading into a December period which carries quite a lot of risk. We have hope that we can get through it by just ensuring that we become more vigilant and control the prospects of super-spreader events.

“If we can do that, then we can get through December with just a little spike. Because if we don’t then we are looking at a prospect of a second surge.”

Karim said that South Africa already has ‘good’ rules in place regarding events and wearing of masks during its current level 1 lockdown.

Rather than introducing further restrictions pre-emptively, he said that it was more an issue of enforcement and ensuring that the current rules are being followed.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported that government is considering re-imposing several measures aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic as fears mount about a second wave, citing 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, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information hasn’t been made public.

South Africa reported have 1,729 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday (10 November), taking the total reported to 740,254.

Deaths have reached 19,951 (a daily increase of 106), while recoveries have climbed to 683,194, leaving the country with a balance of 37,109 active cases.

Read: Warning of major job losses and economic decline if harder lockdown makes a comeback in South Africa

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Government’s Covid-19 advisor on moving South Africa to a harder lockdown