Advisory committee calls for harder lockdown over Easter weekend in South Africa

The Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended to government that South Africa be put into a higher level of lockdown over the Easter weekend, to prevent a surge in Covid-19 infections.

Health experts and analysts have repeatedly warned that the coming holiday weekend will likely spur a third wave of the virus in South Africa, as people travel across provinces to spend time with family and attend mass religious gatherings.

Current projections are that these super-spreader events will lead to a next wave of infections between end-April and June, exacerbated by the encroaching winter months – when the virus becomes more transmissible, and the flu season begins.

Researchers at Nelson Mandela University warned that the wave of infection could hit even sooner, however, with statistical data indicating that certain parts of the country could see a swell in infections at the end of March or early April.

Speaking to ENCA, MAC chair professor Barry Schoub said that there has been an advisory from the committee that tighter lockdown restrictions be put in place – temporarily – over the “sensitive” Easter period.

“Over this period…there is a vulnerability, a chance, a risk that we could see super spreader events will all the festivities and activities that go on over the weekend. So the advisory was for a temporary increase in restrictions over this period of time,” he said.

The professor said that it would likely only be for the Easter weekend and perhaps a “little bit over that”, should the advice be taken.

Epidemiologist Prof Salim Abdool Karim echoed this position, saying that if it were up to him, he would also move the country to at least lockdown level 2 as a precautionary measure.

“I don’t know if we will have a third wave after Easter. But I don’t want to wait to find out. I would rather take the precautions and reduce our chances of a third wave,” he told TimesLive.

The comments come amid growing speculation about an imminent move to tighter lockdown, following reports from News24 that the National Coronavirus Command Council is set to meet this week over the recommendations.

Tighter lockdown could see wider curfew hours, restrictions on gatherings, and limited sale of alcohol.

In South Africa, there have been 510 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,538,961. Deaths have reached 52,251 (a daily increase of 55), while recoveries have climbed to 1,465,20, leaving the country with a balance of 21,506 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 194,257.

Read: Researchers warn third Covid-19 wave could hit parts of South Africa by April

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Advisory committee calls for harder lockdown over Easter weekend in South Africa