Expert on how South Africa’s level 1 lockdown could work

Professor Salim Abdool Karim says that South Africa should be able to ease a number of restrictions when government announces a move to a level 1 lockdown.

Karim, who is the chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, told 702 that the key issue will be avoiding ‘super-spreader’ events that could spark a second resurgence in coronavirus cases.

“In those settings, we have to have a situation where we reduce our risk of a super-spreading event. But issues like the curfew and restrictions around alcohol have largely served their purpose.

“They were put in place to protect hospitals, we don’t have an issue with hospital space and beds at the moment, so they are less critical at this point or not even needed.”

Karim said that the government can also look at the opening of international travel as there are key guidelines in place to reopen in a safe manner.

Speaking on the issue of sports and nightclubs and whether they could lead to ‘super-spreader’ events, Karim said that it was not a question of whether these venues should open but rather if they can open in a safe way so that the country does not go back to ‘square one’.

“For example, there is no reason why restaurants should not be open even though they carry risk, as long as we have certain restrictions on the number that can be there, the distancing that is maintained etc.”

“We are now in the Post-Covid ‘new normal’. People (shouldn’t think) we are going back to the old normal. And we will have to find a way to adapt to the new normal.”

Level 1 lockdown 

South Africa could move to level 1 lockdown next week, when president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation as promised during a recent meeting with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef).

Citing senior officials, who are privy to meetings at the National Coronavirus Command Council, City Press reported that the move to the lowest lockdown level could happen within the ‘next week or two’, with an announcement imminent.

According to the officials, lockdown level 1 will see further easing of restrictions, although some measures will still remain in place. The expected changes include:

  • Adjusting limits on gatherings, such as church services, by instead increasing it to a percentage of capacity (ie, 50% of a venue’s capacity instead of 50 people);
  • Opening up international borders, but only regionally to the rest of Africa;
  • International travel to Europe and other destinations with a resurgence in Covid-19 infections are still seen as too high-risk, and re-importing the virus is a concern;
  • Social distancing, mask wearing, and hygiene protocols will remain in place.

The government has received proposals and presentations from several sectors which remain under strain due to lockdown conditions, including the events industry, hotels and tourism, sporting groups and religious groups.

Read: 4 new lockdown changes for South Africa

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Expert on how South Africa’s level 1 lockdown could work