Joburg’s big plans for social distancing – including moving 6,000 people to ‘de-densify’ townships

The City of Johannesburg says it is moving ahead with a massive plan to ‘de-densify’ parts of the city in a bid to mitigate the growth of informal settlements and help lower-income people adhere to social distancing protocols.

In a statement on Friday (17 July), executive mayor Geoff Makhubo said the city it will initially focus on the Rabie Ridge in Midrand.

Makhubo says the plan is to build temporary housing in Rabie Ridge, which will accommodate 6,000 residents from informal settlements across the city in line with social distancing and other Covid-19 protocols.

Town planners believe the densification of urban areas degrades the quality of existing space and places greater burdens on an already creaking infrastructure, he said.

He added that highly-dense areas make it impossible for people to observe public health regulations promulgated to combat the spread of the infectious Covid-19 pandemic.

“We need to start with temporary housing to de-densify informal settlements by moving qualifying beneficiaries. This is a step in the right direction,” he said.

“The main reason for this project is to move people from informal settlements due to the difficulties of social distancing. We want to build such structures that will be in line with Covid-19 regulations and allow for social distancing.”

Makhubo said the city also plans to introduce ‘de-densification’ in other parts of the city including Ivory Park near Tembisa. He said that Johannesburg has a number of high-density areas with a significant population.

“This warrants the implementation of drastic yet responsible interventions to prevent a potential rapid spread of Covid-19 that could affect millions of residents,” he said.

Gauteng is the currently epicentre of the coronavirus in South Africa, with the province accounting for a total of 1117,895 cases as of 16 July. This accounts for 36.4% total cases in the country.

As of 15 July, Johannesburg accounts for a total of 50,364 of the city’s cases with areas such as Soweto being some of the hardest hit.

Read: South Africa could introduce these new drinking laws to combat alcohol abuse

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Joburg’s big plans for social distancing – including moving 6,000 people to ‘de-densify’ townships