Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says that South Africa ‘cannot be in a lockdown forever’ and that the country will look to easing restrictions in the coming weeks.
Mkhize told 702 that government is trying to balance the reopening of the economy in such a way as to allow for more economic activity without risking a coronavirus infection resurgence could be higher and more devastating than what the country has seen already.
He further confirmed that government leaders met on Tuesday to discuss new recommendations around the easing of lockdown restrictions.
“This is indeed on the table right now. The National Coronavirus Command Council is discussing all sorts of different suggestions and proposals to look at what areas need to be leased, what restrictions need to be eased and which ones still need to be kept.”
Mkhize added that there was no specific ‘number’ of coronavirus infections which government will consider acceptable before easing restrictions. Instead, he said that the government was following ‘trends’.
“We started easing (the) lockdown when the numbers were actually going up. We moved to level 3 when we saw the number surging upwards as well and we never reversed it. At this point, this is time for the command council to consider the restrictions that need to be eased, and in the next few weeks we should continue to do so.
“But which ones (will be eased), I will leave to the decision-making command council which has to take a lot of other factors into account.”
The Forum of South African Directors-General (Fosad) has recommended to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) that South Africa be moved to lockdown level 2 as early as this week.
Citing sources who attended the forum meeting where the resolution was made, TimesLive reports said that the recommendation would have been presented at the NCCC meeting held on Tuesday.
The council would have to adopt the recommendation, and cabinet would have to approve it before it could be implemented.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was also reportedly advised to lift the tobacco and alcohol sales ban.
Four sources who have knowledge of the discussions told News24 that the economic devastation of the cigarette sales ban could no longer be justified. The country has lost billions of rand in tax revenue as a result of the ban and the illegal selling of cigarettes has flourished.
Ramaphosa is expected to announce his decision on the easing of lockdown restrictions this week.