Government looking at level 3 lockdown restrictions for South Africa’s coronavirus hotspots: report

Government is considering the reintroduction of a level 3 lockdown in the parts of the country where a surge in coronavirus cases has been reported, the Sunday Times reports.

This comes after health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize met with local business and political leaders on Friday in Port Elizabeth.

While Mkhize said that no decision has been taken, a senior official told the Sunday Times that the stakeholders had agreed to move the region back to a level 3  lockdown.

“The decision was welcomed even by the taverners. The initial thinking by the minister was that we move to level 4. But the meeting reached a compromise that we would move to level 3,” they said.

“This means that all taverns will have to close down There will be no on-site drinking and a stricter curfew will be introduced.”

These decisions still need to be confirmed by the government’s National Coronavirus Command Council.

Lockdown level 3?

South African entered lockdown level 3 in June, and later moved to an ‘advanced’ version, which removed restrictions on restaurants and personal care businesses.

The main markers of lockdown level 3 included restrictions around on-site consumption of alcohol, leisure travel, social visits, large gatherings, and businesses with more than 100 employees.

Under these rules, people were prohibited from leaving their homes except to travel to and from work, to shop, to exercise during set hours or for emergencies. Hotels and accommodation were closed and domestic travel was prohibited for leisure purposes.

Gatherings were allowed in select cases – such as in places of worship – but were limited to 50 people or fewer. Cigarette and tobacco sales were also prohibited.

It is not yet clear which, if any, of the original restrictions will be reintroduced.

Nelson Mandela Bay acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye said that a final decision will be announced in the next week. He confirmed that a 22h00 curfew and further limits on social gatherings are two measures being considered.

Local lockdown

In a media briefing on Thursday (26 November), Mkhize said that the idea of using ‘differentiated approaches’ for specific hotspot areas was first mooted in May and June.

Under this approach, Mkhize said that the government will look to introduce a ‘package of interventions’ in these problem areas.

“In this case, the whole of Nelson Mandela Bay will probably deserve additional restrictions, we will therefore be going through a consultation just to go through the things we believe will be important,” he said.

“I think that when we see the numbers that we do now, we need to start restricting the hours of movement, particularly later activities (in the evening).

“We also have to look at the numbers in the hospitals to look at the impact of alcohol-induced pressure and start discussing issues in that regard.”

On Thursday, the Western Cape government said it is also considering local lockdown restrictions to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in hotspot areas.

The province issued a ‘resurgence’ warning this week as the number of active cases have increased substantially week-on-week.

The provincial head of Health, Doctor Keith Cloete, said that one of the only measures available to the Western Cape is if encourages public behaviour to change drastically.

“We will have to look (at) and explore local restrictions. If people do not behave in a way that will help us, we might have to become much more tough in the way that we impose restrictions locally in the Western Cape,” he said.

He said that there will be more clarity by next week on exactly what these restrictions will be.

“The premier and the cabinet have agreed that in the face of these increasing infections it would be the responsible thing to do to consider all the possibilities that can be done locally with municipalities and explore the appropriate application of restrictions in the coming weeks and months.”


Read: Level 1 lockdown changes planned for travel in South Africa

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Government looking at level 3 lockdown restrictions for South Africa’s coronavirus hotspots: report