South Africa set to relax lockdown restrictions soon: economists

A positive trend in South Africa’s Covid-19 statistics and recent comments from health officials indicate that government could relax lockdown restrictions for South Africa in the coming weeks, say economists from the Bureau for Economic Research (BER).

The group cited comments by the Department of Health on Friday (3 September), with health minister Joe Phaala stating that as soon as there is a sustained decrease in infections, he would advise the president to relax restrictions.

“Given the recent positive trends in new Covid-19 cases in most provinces, a further loosening of lockdown restrictions could follow in the next week or so.

“The ministry also confirmed that sufficient stocks are now available to vaccinate everyone who needs a jab: if enough people would show up, South Africa is able to do between 300,000 and 400,000 shots per day.”

Last week, South Africa vaccinated about 250,000 people per weekday. However, vaccination rates over weekends remain much lower. About one in four adults are vaccinated, with around 16% of the adult population fully vaccinated.

The government is not currently planning to mandate vaccinations, but the health minister said they were looking into ‘soft’ incentives to encourage vaccinations  – such as given access to specific events to vaccinated people only.

The BER said that more South African companies would likely introduce mandatory policies as the vaccination rollout continues.

“Discovery was the first JSE-listed company to mandate vaccinations for all staff, as of the start of 2022, and will in due course likely be followed by more local companies with many international businesses already mandating vaccines for employees,” it said.

Meetings to be held this week

The government reviews South Africa’s lockdown restrictions weekly and is encouraged by the declining number of Covid-19 cases seen in the country, says health minister Joe Phaahla.

Addressing media on Friday, Phaahla said an analysis would be conducted by the health department and the Coivd-19 ministerial advisory committees in the coming days.

If there is indeed a sustained decline, then the government will ease restrictions, he said. Phaahla said the two key concerns are KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, with the rest of the country seeing steady declines.

“We will continue to assess this and will give a report to president Cyril Ramaphosa and the team of leaders in the next week. If it becomes clear that there is stability and the infection rates are definitely stabilising, we will give the necessary advice.

“You can look forward to some more relaxations – but there will still be a responsibility on us to follow the protocols.”


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South Africa set to relax lockdown restrictions soon: economists