Current restrictions are enough to control Covid-19 – but we need harsher punishments: premier

Western Cape premier Alan Winde says that level 1 restrictions are sufficient to contain coronavirus spread in the province, but that a risk-adjusted strategy should be used in hotspot areas.

In a digital briefing on Thursday (3 December), Winde said that while the current regulations allow for indoor gatherings of up to 250 people, this should be shifted to restrictions based on square meterage.

The Western Cape provincial government does not plan on introducing new lockdown restrictions but instead will adopt a five-pronged strategy to contain the virus, including:

  • Changing community behaviour to prevent infections – including strong public messaging;
  • Surveillance and outbreak response through daily huddles;
  • Scaling up of health platform for Covid capacity, including local contingency plans;
  • Maintaining comprehensive (health) services and plan to carefully reduce services to accommodate Covid-19 capacity;
  • Safeguarding and protecting the well-being of health workers.

Winde said that the provincial focus remains on behavioural change but that increased law enforcement will be present over December to make sure the rules are followed.

“Let’s make sure that over the next 30 days we flatten this curve – we all know what to do. Let’s not spend all of our time policing our way out of this – but we will make sure law enforcement enforce the rules.”

The premier said that he has also spoken to president Cyril Ramaphosa about introducing harsher punishments for not following existing rules  – particularly the wearing of masks in public places.

As of 2 December, the Western Cape has 10,442 active cases of Covid-19, with a total of 132,642 confirmed cases and 117,501 recoveries.

National announcement

While Winde has made it clear that the Western Cape does not want to introduce a lockdown due to the damage it could cause the local economy, his hand might ultimately be forced at a national level.

President Ramaphosa is expected to address the nation on the national government’s interventions to combat the surge in coronavirus cases being seen across South Africa.

It is anticipated that the president will announce a number of new measures in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape which have seen a spike in cases in recent weeks.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Tyrone Seale said that the presidency has not officially confirmed a national address, and that announcements are typically only made when the president is ready to speak.

Sources who sat in on government’s National Coronavirus Command Council meeting this week indicate that the country’s coronavirus hotspots could face the following additional restrictions:

  • The introduction of a 22h00 curfew, with restaurants closed by 21h00;
  • A ban on the consumption of alcohol in public areas;
  • Restricting gatherings — with funerals and church services set to be limited to 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors;
  • The shuttering of public open spaces, which may include beaches.

It is still unclear when these reported restrictions will take effect.

Read: New alcohol restrictions for South Africa will devastate parts of the economy

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Current restrictions are enough to control Covid-19 – but we need harsher punishments: premier