Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has warned that if South Africa’s current Covid-19 trajectory continues, the country’s healthcare systems will be overwhelmed.
In response, he said that the country’s provincial governments are considering recommendations on how to contain large gatherings and parties.
He said that the ultimate decision on these recommendations will be made by president Cyril Ramaphosa, after discussions with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
When asked as to whether South Africa could revert to a higher lockdown level, Mkhize said that provincial governments, district municipalities and stakeholders have been asked for plans and proposals which will be tabled for consideration by the NCCC and cabinet.
Mkhize said that it is not possible to know what level of restrictions could be introduced, but he said that there has to be some way to encourage responsible behaviour from South Africans and discourage complacent behaviour.
“Once all of these issues have been tabled together, we can then can get a more definitive answer on the best way to go forward. But that will be after cabinet and president Ramaphosa gives an address – then we will have a clear direction,” he said.
In the time being, Mkhize said that the focus will continue to be on containment measures such as mask, social distancing and good hygiene practices.
“Yes, (the) festive season is time for us to relax and enjoy with our families but we now need to understand that we have a responsibility to enjoy with various restraints.
“If our enjoyment is going to lead to more people getting sick, getting admitted and even some losing lives, it is not a responsible way of enjoying ourselves. We need to prepare for a festive season with a difference.”
In a media briefing on Wednesday (10 December), Mkhize announced that South Africa has entered a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
He said that the key drivers of this new wave are the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
“We look at the number of tests done, the positivity rate, the number of positive cases, the percentage positive, the numbers of people who are admitted, and the number of fatalities.
“All of these together must show an indication of an increase on a week-to-week period over a seven-day period. We then conclude that there is an increase,” he said.
On Wednesday, South Africa reported 6,709 new cases, taking the total reported to 828,598.
Deaths have reached 22,574, a daily increase of 142, while recoveries have climbed to 754,658, leaving the country with a balance of 51,366 active cases.