The government is not considering returning South Africa to a hard lockdown – at least for now, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said.
Speaking during an engagement with Mpumalanga’s provincial authorities on their COVID-19 response on Friday, Ramaphosa said the government is trying to strike a balance between saving lives and livelihoods.
“Another hard lockdown is not being considered for now. The issue of jobs lost concerns us. Other countries are experiencing even bigger losses. We are developing various other ways of responding to this,” he said.
Calls for level 5 lockdown
COVID-19 infection rates have soared in recent weeks, reaching a new daily record of 8,728 new cases on Thursday (2 July). South Africa had confirmed a total of 168,061 cases as of Thursday, according to an update by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize. 2,844 people had lost their lives, while 81,999 had recovered.
The surge in cases has prompted calls for South Africa to go back to level 5 (hard) lockdown. In a statement earlier this week, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said another level 5 lockdown should last for three months.
It added, “No amount of social distancing, wearing masks and sanitisation will help reduce the rise in infections and deaths. The only strategy that will help us is ‘staying at home.’
“Our democratic government has the responsibility to act in the interest of the paramount right to life. No other right comes above the right to life.”
Level 5 Gauteng
Ramaphosa said although the increase in confirmed cases was expected, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will discuss the situation in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, the three hardest-hit provinces.
Gauteng has re-emerged as the pandemic’s epicentre in South Africa. The province reported 3,993 new cases on Friday, reaching a total of 49,937 with 14,097 recoveries and 282 deaths.
The situation has left residents anxious as to whether the government will return Gauteng back to level 5 lockdown or not.
In an interview with eNCA on Friday, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku said the NCCC will discuss possible additional interventions in the province this weekend, including an “intermittent lockdown.”
He said, “An intermittent lockdown is an option on how we are going to apply a lockdown and the NCCC can decide to take another decision on what we can implement.
“The whole matter will be on how we mitigate the risk, how we protect the system and how we protect our healthcare workers.”
A decision on Gauteng going back to level 5 lockdown with therefore only be known after the NCCC meeting this weekend.