South Africa’s government is weighing the risks that a stricter lockdown might pose to the economy as it considers tightening restrictions to curb surging coronavirus infections, minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said.
The authorities are monitoring hospital admissions before any decision is taken on what new measures to introduce, Gungubele told reporters Thursday after a cabinet briefing. The presidency has yet to set a date when President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation, he said.
South Africa is currently in lockdown alert level 1. Last year, the government imposed alert level 5 restrictions that shuttered almost all economic activity except essential services.
“It is no longer in dispute the damage the restrictions at level 4 and 5 caused,” Gungubele said. “The attitude government is adopting is find the best possible way of navigating whilst ensuring the initiatives for livelihoods are intensified and the economy moves.”
Ministerial Advisory Committee chairperson Professor Koleka Mlisana has said the rapid spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in South Africa means that restrictions around movement and travel are unlikely to be effective over the busy holiday season.
In an interview with radio station 702, Mlisana said that an increase in Omicron cases had been reported across almost all provinces, but the picture emerging is that these infections are less severe, which places less strain on the country’s hospitals.
“It really wouldn’t make any sense to restrict travel within the country because the variant is everywhere. What then becomes important is to look at the clinical picture. Any other restrictions would only be introduced when we see the health system overburdened. For now, it is a matter of watching closely.”
On Wednesday (8 December), South Africa reported 19,842 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,071,064.
Deaths have reached 90,038 (+36), while recoveries have climbed to 2,867,966, leaving the country with a balance of 113,060 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 26,781,642 (+142,349).
With further reporting by Bloomberg.