National government is considering additional restrictions for a number of Covid-19 hotspot areas in South Africa as a means of curbing the impact of a second coronavirus wave.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has already begun to meet with health and government officials in the areas this week after president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the introduction of localised lockdowns in hotspot areas.
As of 8 December 2020, there have been 4,011 new Covid-19 cases in South Africa, taking the total reported to 821,889. Deaths have reached 22,432 (a daily increase of 226), while recoveries have climbed to 753,072, leaving the country with a balance of 46,385 active cases.
Nationally, the Western Cape still accounts for the most active cases, with 16,089 current infections, followed by KwaZulu-Natal (9,788) and the Eastern Cape (7,983).
During his national address, Ramaphosa identified three areas in South Africa that were of particular concern for a sharp rise in the number of new infections:
- Nelson Mandela Bay (EC);
- The Garden Route (WC); and
- Sarah Baartman District (EC).
Of the three areas mentioned, only one was officially declared a hotspot region, with further restrictions put into place to curb the spread of the virus.
However, each region has its own warnings in place to identify problem areas on a more granular level.
Nelson Mandela Bay
According to the Nelson Mandela Bay metro’s daily tracking of hotspot areas, Uitenhage remains the hardest-hit area in the district, with several other hotspots identified in and around Port Elizabeth.
This includes Despatch, Arcadia, Booysen Park, Walmer, Algoa Park, and New Brighton.
The Garden Route District has been identified as one of the sources of the significant rise in cases in the province, which includes subdistricts such as Bitou, George, Knysna, Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn.
The province has specifically highlighted the following regions as seeing an alarming rise in active cases over the last week:
- Theronville: +118%
- Protea Park: +100%
- Ladismith: +54%
- George: +46%
- Heidelberg: +40%
- Albertinia: +27%
- Oudtshoorn: +26%
- Pascaltsdorp: +24%
- Knysna: +22%
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Weekly increase in coronavirus infections;
Oudtshoorn 26%⬆️, Pacaltsdorp 24%⬆️, George 46%⬆️, Theronville 118%⬆️.
Please share the info with people you know in the areas & stay safe. 😷 pic.twitter.com/T5gdaSb5TP
— Western Cape Gov (@WesternCapeGov) December 9, 2020
The Sarah Baartman District last updated its figures on 7 December, reflecting statistics as at 3 December 2020.
It identified the concentration of active cases in the region to be in the Kouga and Makana local municipalities, with a range of areas that are considered ‘hotspots’ of infection.
Restrictions currently in place in Nelson Mandela Bay have been gazetted to apply to all regions which are declared hotspot areas by national government.
In addition to the current level 1 lockdown restrictions, the following restrictions will be introduced:
- Hours of curfew will be from 22h00 – 04h00 except for essential workers and emergencies;
- The sale of alcohol will only be permitted between 10h00 and 18h00, from Monday and Thursday at retail outlets;
- Alcohol use will be banned in public places such as beaches and parks;
- All gatherings, including religious gatherings, may not be attended by more than 100 people for indoor events and 250 people for outdoor events;
- At all times the total number of people may not exceed 50% of venue capacity;
- All post-funeral gatherings are now prohibited.
The Western Cape government is pushing hard to steer regions in the province clear of being declared hotspot areas, and has presented its own guidelines for how to curb infections in the region.
It has however, warned that it is not out of the woods regarding such a declaration, and that it is ultimately up to national government to determine whether to impose hotspot restriction.
Dr Mkhize, who has already visited the Garden Route, said that some restrictions are being considered for the district outside of it being declared a hotspot. This includes limitations on:
- Public halls;
- Swimming pools;
- Large activities in parks;
- Gatherings on beaches.
Government has also been in talks with various stakeholders on measures that can be put in place to prevent other regions in South Africa seeing a surge in infections, particularly during the festive season.
It has been in talks with the restaurant industry over how best to handle alcohol sales and on-site drinking of alcohol during December – while the KZN provincial government said that the closure of beaches is a broad consideration, but stressed that no formal decision on the matter has been taken.
Mkhize called on all South Africans to act responsibly over the festive season to reduce the risk of infection.