The Western Cape government will argue against a lockdown being imposed on the province, and is instead in favour of targeted, local interventions based on scientific evidence, says premier Alan Winde.
Winde said that his provincial government is considering its own proposals outside of the those being discussed by president Cyril Ramaphosa in a Presidential Coordinating Council on Wednesday (2 December).
“As I have announced before, the Western Cape Government and local governments in the province are considering their own localised interventions and restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19 in line with our own respective powers, and we will be setting out our response plan at my weekly digitial press conference on Thursday,” he said.
Winde said that the Western Cape Government does intend to engage the president on its position on existing regulations. This is because all regulations under the Disaster Management Act are promulgated by the national Government and not provincial governments, he said.
“During this consultation, the Western Cape will strongly argue against any blunt instrument, like a lockdown, being imposed on the province.
“We must first do everything possible, through our individual and collective action to ensure the resurgence is rolled-back and to prevent this tool from ever having to be used again.”
Winde said that another lockdown would be disastrous for the economy, causing major job losses, and must be prevented at all costs.
“If we all wear a mask, follow the golden rules, and avoid the 3 Cs – crowded places, confined spaces and close contact – we can make a major dent in this resurgence. This should be our top priority across all spheres of government.
“Our position remains that we need common-sense, targeted, and localised interventions that ensure that we protect our healthcare system and reduce the spread of Covid-19, while ensuring that the economy remains as open as possible. And these interventions must be based on top scientific advice.”
Winde said that one such intervention which is needed is around gatherings, and especially those that take place indoors.
“Our surveillance teams have traced many cluster outbreaks to indoor gatherings of people, as the virus spreads quicker in confined spaces when there is poor ventilation,” he said.
“The number of people permitted to gather indoors, currently at 250, is too high and this needs to be reconsidered for specific hotspots where the virus is spreading faster.”
The premier said that he would also communicate to the president that provincial governments should be delegated more powers to implement interventions close to specific geographic hotspots so that it can ‘get the best possible outcomes’ in those areas.
“This localised approach will allow for each area’s specific challenges to be taken into account and prevent blunt tools that have unintended consequences,” he said.
“All these interventions need to be underpinned by a major behaviour change push. We need increased communication by all spheres of government on the safety precautions that residents should be taking over the festive season, and the national government should assist hotspots in this respect.”
The premier said that this needs to be coupled with more visible enforcement in the province’s hotspots.
“There are already many regulations in place that can be leveraged to respond right now, but they need to be enforced as a matter of urgency so that there are consequences for those breaking the rules.
“The Western Cape Government is doing what it can in turn of its own competencies, but full coordinated action will make a bigger impact.”
Winde said that a big push on behaviour change, with common-sense, targeted interventions linked to scientific advice, and increased enforcement of said interventions, is the best way the province can get the balance between keeping the economy open and slowing the spread of Covid-19.
The Western Cape Government has reported a surge in Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations in the province, which can now be considered as an established resurgence.
A resurgence is when the number of active cases increase, week-on-week, by more than 20%. Over the last week alone, the province has witnessed a 52.1% jump in new cases, with an established pattern over time.
Hospitalisations reached a low of under 500 in September, and have now reached over 900 this week.
As of Tuesday (1 December), the Western Cape has 9,683 active cases of Covid-19, with a total of 131,269 confirmed cases and 116,915 recoveries. A total of 4,671 deaths have been reported in the province.