President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation on Sunday, 27 June, after meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) in a special briefing.
Speaking to News24, government spokesperson Phumla Williams said that the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure will meet today (26 June) to discuss the surging number of Covid-19 infections in the country, with the NCCC and presidential coordinating council to meet after.
A special cabinet meeting will take place to process the recommendations from the meetings, she said.
The special meetings are being held sooner than expected, with Williams initially confirming on Friday that the NCCC was only expected to meet on Tuesday, 29 June. However, a more rapid response has been urged by health experts and other officials, following a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases in the country.
As of 25 June, 18,726 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in the country, the bulk of which – 11,777 cases – were in Gauteng. The country recorded 215 new deaths, with active cases sitting at 145,904.
The health department on Saturday confirmed that the highly infectious Delta variant of Covid-19, first discovered in India, is likely behind the surge.
The Delta variant has been found to be highly transmissible due to several mutations in the virus. It has spread extremely quickly since its discovery and has now entered 85 countries.
Director of the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), professor Tulio de Oliviera said that not only is the Delta variant spreading rapidly in the country, it is also becoming the dominant variant locally.
In the same briefing, professor Koleka Mlisana, co-chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said that tighter restrictions are needed to combat the new variant.
She said that the Delta variant introduces new challenges and variables to South Africa’s prevention strategies – in particular, the Delta variant is highly transmissible and spreads through interaction, so the government will need to put tighter restrictions on gatherings.
A move to a harder lockdown has been recommended by several quarters, including the South African Medical Association, the Gauteng Provincial Government, medical professionals, and the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19.
Acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said there is a belief among officials that the current level of restrictions is not adequate to face the severity of the challenges presented by the Delta variant.