‘Strong risk’ of higher stage metro lockdowns in July and August: analyst

Intellidex analyst Peter Attard Montalto says that there is a strong risk that there will be higher level lockdowns in South Africa’s major metros in the next two months, as social and political pressure mounts to “do something” about accelerating Covid-19 cases.

“There is still a strong risk we believe that higher stage metro lockdowns are possible in July and August – next week’s NCC is a key test here to start,” Attard Montalto said in a note on Wednesday.

“Whilst economically locking back down metros which represent some 61% of GDP is very tough, we see politically a point may come when there is no option but that ‘something must be done’. Comments from provinces have indicated that the central government is still communicating that this is an active risk,” he said.

His comments come after health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday (30 June) said that implementing hard lockdowns in localised districts will remain a possibility as Covid-19 cases spike – but no such decision has been taken at this stage.

Speaking in a series of radio interviews on Tuesday morning, Mkhize said there are concerns over the rate at which case numbers are rising in Gauteng, especially.

Mkhize told Radio 702, that a move back to a stricter lockdown will always remain a possibility, and government will not hesitate to move back to that if it is deemed necessary.

“We have warned over a while that the surge would come. We said we need to look out for the winter months, and I’m afraid the numbers are increasing, and we need out people to be aware and take all the necessary precautions to protect themselves,” Mkhize said.

“While the lockdown helped us with our models, we were clear that you can’t keep it longer than what we did. We must still do it another time in the future; however, we need to get back to normal life, back to work. We’re trying to balance those two, and we need the utmost cooperation and unity as we go about it,” he said

“A hard lockdown will always remain a possibility. You must realise that when we released the first lockdown it wasn’t because that was the last time we were going to do it. It may be necessary (to implement hard lockdown again) – but when that situation comes we will talk about it.”

The health minister noted that the rate of infection in Gauteng has turned faster than initially anticipated, and that the province will soon be worse off than the Western Cape, where the rate of cluster infections was higher than anywhere else in the country.

“The problem with that is too many people getting sick at the same time. We need to slow the viral infection down, so social distancing and hygiene measures need to be adhered to,” he said. “If there is a need for another lockdown, we will not hesitate to go that route. Right now, there is no such decision taken.”

Speaking on SAFM, Mkhize, said: “One of the challenges with Gauteng is the fact that you have different metropolitan areas which is one ecosystem…As we move into the future we need to be open minded as to what our needs are.”

Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku said on Monday (29 June) that the province is preparing for the worst of the coronavirus and that it hopes to be ready for a peak in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.

Masuku said that the province may also look an introducing a stricter lockdown, saying that the provincial government was specifically looking at the introduction of an ‘intermittent lockdown’ which has been used in other countries.

Under an intermittent lockdown there would be a period of time where society will be open and there will be a period of time where there will be a lockdown to contain the infection, he said.

Recovery

According to Attard Montalto, recovery from the lockdown, assuming a peak in August, will be slow.

“We watch from September onwards on what happens particularly with international tourism – we don’t see it restarting without the impossible block of a two-week quarantine until into the new year – however, pressure will mount for it to restart earlier during the second half of the year.

Near-term data for April and May is likely to be very volatile reflecting the economy adjusting into and then out of the level 5 lockdown.

“Data for July onwards (out from September in particular) is likely only then to show more meaningfully how the recovery trajectory will progress,” he said.


Read: Gauteng is now looking at an ‘intermittent’ lockdown

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‘Strong risk’ of higher stage metro lockdowns in July and August: analyst