Health minister Dr Zeli Mkhize says that South Africa is experiencing exponential growth in daily Covid-19 cases, and that the government will look at further restrictions ‘as required’ to address this increase.
On Wednesday (16 December), the country reported over 10,000 daily Covid-19 cases for the first time since August, and the peak of its first coronavirus wave. An additional 166 deaths were reported.
Total coronavirus cases in the country now stand at 883,687, while the country has reported a total of 774,585 recoveries.
“We continue to assess the entire country and where we identify risks, we will engage and make a determination if further containment measures or restrictions are required,” Mkhize said.
“We wish to commend all South Africans who heeded government’s call and complied with regulations by not going to the beaches.
“We know that although this has taken away time for enjoyment from our people, it will certainly contribute to curbing the spread of the virus.”
Mkhize said that the country’s beaches are known for overcrowding during this time of year and that and people tend to be ‘carefree’.
“We urge people who will be going to the beach tomorrow and on days permitted, to ensure that it does not become a day of regret where people get infected and lives are lost.
“We plead with you to be responsible and protect yourself. Keep a physical distance from others, wear your mask and wash or sanitise your hands.”
Western Cape leads the way
Mkhize said that the Western Cape leads the way when it comes to new Covid-19 infections, with the province breaching the 3,000 mark in daily cases for the first time this week.
The health minister said that all other provinces have also reported an average daily increase in Covid-19 cases, except for the Eastern Cape which has seen daily decrease. However, the province is still reporting more than 1,500 new cases a day.
On Wednesday, the breakdown of new Covid-19 cases by province was as follows:
- Western Cape – 3,233 new Covid-19 cases
- KZN – 2,743 new Covid-19 cases;
- Gauteng – 1,795 new Covid-19 cases;
- Eastern Cape – 1,619 new Covid-19 cases
- North West – 182 new Covid-19 cases
- Limpopo – 154 new Covid-19 cases
- Mpumalanga – 146 new Covid-19 cases
- Free State – 88 new Covid-19 cases
- Northern Cape – 56 new Covid-19 cases.
Legal challenges against lockdown rules
Mkhize also noted various legal challenges that have been brought against the government regarding its latest set of lockdown regulations.
In an address on Monday evening, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced new national and district-based restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of a second coronavirus wave during the festive season.
The new measures include a stricter curfew and restrictions around the sale of alcohol, as well as area-specific restrictions around the use of beaches.
“As (the Department of) Health, we stand by the recommendations made to the National Coronavirus Command Council which are well substantiated by evidence,” said Mkhize.
“We have every intention to oppose these applications as the Department, and Government’s mandate to protect the lives and health of our people remains paramount.
“We dare not neglect this responsibility by omitting to take the necessary actions to protect the health care system from being overwhelmed and collapsing, as we’ve seen in other countries.”