South Africa needs to introduce further lockdown restrictions – including closure of schools: medical experts

The South Medical Association (Sama) has criticised the government’s response to the country’s third wave of Covid-19 infections, which it warns is likely to be worse than the first two.

In a series of media interviews this week, the group said that stricter lockdown measures need to be implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus or else the country risks losing the fight against the pandemic.

Sama chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee told the SABC that Gauteng hospitals are running out of beds and oxygen.

“There should be tighter restrictions on gatherings, people should stay at home as much as possible, we need to look at the schools again, especially in Gauteng,” she said.

“If you want a bed in Gauteng you are going to struggle so this is what we’re seeing and if we want to get out of this we need to make tough decisions.

“But it seems like it’s not going to happen so for now it is what it is and no one should be astonished if the numbers go up,” said Coetzee.

South Africa recorded 11,767 new Covid-19 cases, with 100 new deaths on Thursday. The Department of Health said that active cases in the country stands at 104,437, with the country’s most populous province, Gauteng, worst affected.

The medical association further warned that its early indications showed that the third wave of Covid-19 infections would be worse than the previous two.

Coetzee told EWN that the government’s heightened level 3 lockdown measures had come too late.

“People carry on as if everything is right. Everything is not right. We are in a pandemic, we are in a third wave and a third wave that’s going to be worse. At this stage, all the indications are that it is going to be worse than the second wave.”

Rules don’t make sense 

Coetzee told radio station Jacaranda that the country’s level 3 lockdown rules around alcohol are nonsensical.

Under the new restrictions, the sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption is permitted between 10h00 and 18h00 from Monday to Thursday. However, on-site consumption at bars and restaurants is still permitted subject to curfew times.

Coetzee said it doesn’t make sense to block people from drinking at home but allowing them to stay out drinking until 21h00.

“For us, it doesn’t make sense, we need people at home. We don’t want people in a shopping centre or anywhere else, if we can manage to do that for three to four weeks we can get the numbers down but for now, I don’t see that happening.

“Again keeping the schools open when most teachers are sick, especially in Gauteng, is not helping,” she said.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga is facing increased calls to postpone contact teaching at schools in the country. However, the minister has said that too much teaching time has already been lost.

Motshekga is expected to brief the media on the sector’s response to Covid-19 and the impact on schooling on Saturday (19 June).

Vaccines

The National Health Department meanwhile, said it is ready to start vaccinating teachers in their numbers from next week.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines are expected to arrive in the country on Friday.

Briefing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health, the department’s technical advisor, Dr Aquina Thulare said the aircraft carrying the consignment of 300,000 Covid-19 J&J shots will touch down at OR Tambo International Airport on Friday, 18 June 2021.

She said she was confident that the department will be able to vaccinate 300,000 education sector staff out of the 499,000 in 10 working days.

Thereafter, the 199,000 remaining staffers will be inoculated with the additional 1.2 million J&J vaccines arriving next week.

“We believe that all the educators will be covered.” She said that all teachers will be vaccinated regardless of their age.


Read: Government updates level 3 lockdown rules for South Africa after mask confusion

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South Africa needs to introduce further lockdown restrictions – including closure of schools: medical experts