Government in talks to move South Africa to level 1 lockdown: Mkhize

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says that South Africa will need to move to a level 1 lockdown and a return to ‘normal activities’ as part of its economic recovery.

In an interview with Radio Islam on Wednesday (9 September), Mkhize said that his department was initially worried about a possible surge in cases when moving to a level 2 lockdown, but early data shows there has not been a major upsurge in cases.

“We hope that we can still contain the numbers. The past two weeks have been very encouraging with no upsurge, which we hope (will remain the case) if we go to the next level lower.”

Mkhize said that the country will still need to follow major measures around gatherings. However, he said that there was a need to further reopen the economy and get people back to jobs.

The minister said that it was too early to provide a date as to when the country could move to a level 1 lockdown, but he confirmed that the government was currently discussing the issue.

“The president will come out in the next few days and give us a sense of direction, but we will be preparing for people to start easing to the next level. When that has been announced we will, of course, move onto that level, but it has not been decided yet.”

Level 1 lockdown?

While government has not given any indication as to what level 1 lockdown would entail, there are still a few segments of the economy which are still limited under the current level 2 regulations.

These prohibitions include:

  • Night clubs;
  • International passenger air travel for leisure purposes;
  • Passenger ships for international leisure purposes;
  • Attendance of any sporting event by spectators;
  • International sports events;
  • Exclusions relating to public transport services: this relates to long-distance public transport (busses and taxis) being only allowed to operate at 70% capacity;
  • Exclusions relating to education services: currently this relates to grades which are yet to return, and certain university classes.

The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has been leading discussions in recent weeks on protocols to re-open the country’s events industry, with proposals to allow larger events with social distancing measures in place.

Meanwhile, analysts have pointed to the possible re-opening of borders in the coming months.

In a note published on Wednesday, following the announcements of a massive GDP decline in the second quarter of the year, Intellidex analyst Peter Attard Montalto said that there is little in the way of economic activity boosts between August and October.

However, he noted that the partial re-opening of South Africa’s borders entering into the final quarter of the year would help build economic recovery momentum.

The sooner the better 

Earlier this week Mkhize said that South Africa has passed the first wave of positive Covid-19 cases, but warned that citizens should continue to remain cautious to prevent a resurgence.

Speaking in a series of interviews with the media on Monday morning (7 September), the minister said that the latest data shows a clear improvement for the country.

“We never actually knew what to expect, and the reality is that we can now safely say we are over the surge. There were days we used have 11,000 people who were positive and now today we see numbers around 2,000.

“We are not over the worst yet. We are worried about what may happen in terms of a resurgence in the country,” he said.

Mkhize said the sooner the country can reduce the level of restrictions, the better.

“It would have been logical that from level 3 to level 2, there would have been an increase in numbers; it didn’t happen. We don’t want to make conclusions, because we have seen what happened in other countries where there was a lull for a few weeks before a resurgence,” he said.

“The sooner we can get to level one the better. The sooner we have a normal economy the better. It is better for the country. We are hoping South Africans will understand that to get there, we have to make sure we are just as cautious in level two, so that there is no resurgence.”

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Government in talks to move South Africa to level 1 lockdown: Mkhize