Expect some lockdown restrictions in South Africa this week: economists

New daily Covid-19 cases continue to rise sharply in South Africa, with indications pointing to the introduction of new lockdown restrictions, say economists from the Bureau for Economic Research (BER).

In a research note on Monday (13 December), the group said that Covid-19 cases are increasing markedly in all provinces, seemingly driven by the recently discovered Omicron-variant.

“A week ago, Gauteng was responsible for more than 70% of new daily infections. This has come down to 40-45%. The countrywide seven-day rolling average of new cases moved to well above 16,000 over the weekend, from around 10,000 a week ago,” it said.

“The latest indications are that the National Coronavirus Command Council will meet this week, implying that President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to address the nation sometime in the upcoming week.”

However, the BER said that incoming data shows that the more infectious Omicron variant, which is driving local infections, has so far led to fewer hospitalisations and fatalities in South Africa than during the early stages of the Delta-driven third wave.

“Therefore, we still expect any tightening of lockdown restrictions to largely focus on curbing the size of especially indoor gatherings,” it said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has raised concerns with the rising number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa and is expected to hold a meeting with his National Coronavirus Command Council this week to discuss the way forward, the City Press reports.

While the president initially had no intentions to address the nation, he might be forced to make several adjustments to the lockdown before the start of the festive period on Thursday, sources within the presidency told the newspaper.

Specific concerns have been raised around the high number of gatherings that are expected to take place over the festive break, with reduced numbers at gatherings being considered. Under South Africa’s current adjusted level 1 lockdown, the number of people permitted to attend indoor gatherings is 750 people, while up to 2,000 people may attend outdoor events.

Other adjustments around the sale of alcohol have also been mooted, a source told the paper.

“He is considering proposing to the NCCC and cabinet a few adjustments, which include banning the sale of alcohol on weekends and public holidays until mid-January. Don’t be surprised when we have a family meeting before Thursday. He is serious about protecting the country.”

South Africa reported 18,035 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, taking the total reported to 3,167,497.

Deaths have reached 90,137 (+21), while recoveries have climbed to 2,913,232, leaving the country with a balance of 164,128 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 27,090,975 (+12,397).


Read: Ramaphosa tests positive for Covid-19

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Expect some lockdown restrictions in South Africa this week: economists