SA TIMES, Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku has reportedly called on the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to reintroduce a hard lockdown in the province amid a spike in Covid-19 cases.
This follows statements by Health Minister Zweli Mkize last week that a hard lockdown “may become necessary” to curb the pandemic.
Gauteng, the smallest and most populous province in South Africa, is set to overtake the Western Cape with most Covid-19 in the coming days.
Provincial health department spokesperson Thabo Masebe on Monday, however, said Gauteng was not currently calling on the national government to reintroduce a lockdown, but rather better enforce current regulations.
As of Sunday, Gauteng had 63 404 confirmed coronavirus cases, slightly behind the Western Cape’s 69 531.
Here’s what we know about plans to increase Gauteng’s lockdown level:
Why is a higher lockdown level being considered?
Last week, Mkhize expressed concern over continued spikes in the growth of coronavirus cases, and told EWN that another hard lockdown “may become necessary” to curb the pandemic.
Masuku told the Sunday Times that he’d present a proposal for an “intermittent lockdown” to slow down the spread of Covid-19 in Gauteng, in a bid to ensure that the healthcare system is not overwhelmed, which would compromise its ability to save lives.
He said the province was working extremely hard to set up life-saving infrastructure, such as field hospitals. Gauteng is set to overtake the Western Cape with the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the coming days.
Masuku said people continued to gather in large crowds at social gatherings, which helped to spread the virus.
The province is anticipating a shortfall of 1 501 hospital beds in the medium-term and a close to 8 000-bed shortfall between the end of July and September.
Gauteng’s state hospitals are already stretched in terms of capacity, with reports emerging throughout the week of patients being turned away from hospitals, SA TIMES reported
On Sunday, SA TIMES reported that South Africa’s biggest private hospital groups said they had not reached capacity in Gauteng, despite being under immense pressure.
They added, though, that the situation remained “fluid”, and the critical care capacity of hospitals in particular was under stress.
What would the lockdown in Gauteng look like?
Masuku’s proposal would see that the country’s economic hub shut down for up to two weeks at a time, then reopens for a time, before closing again in a scheduled manner.
He told the Sunday Times that, during the “intermitted lockdown”, weddings, church and protest gatherings would be banned, and movement restricted.
Liquor sales would only be permitted once a week for off-site consumption, and only 20 people would be allowed to attend a funeral, down from the 50 currently allowed.
On Monday morning, Masuku told EWN that the province was still deliberating on applying stricter lockdown regulations. These regulations had already been gazetted, he said.
Why a hard lockdown would probably not be implemented in Gauteng?
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country won’t be moving back to Levels 4 or 5 of the lockdown, despite the rapid increase of Covid-19 infections, TimesLive reported.
Instead, Ramaphosa called on South Africans to slow down the spread by wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.
He said the government was concerned about the country’s alarming unemployment rate, which he said was around 31%.
SA TIMES reported that Johannesburg Mayor Geoff Makhubo said last week that another hard lockdown would not be a solution. However, he said, certain regulations should be looked at to curb the spread of the virus.
Makhubo was especially concerned about alcohol-related accidents filling up hospitals, such as incidents of trauma, stabbings and car accidents.
On Monday morning, Masebe told SA TIMES that the province was not calling on a higher lockdown level, but instead calling for tougher enforcement of the current regulations.
He said, as numbers continued to rise, the province needed to look at factors helping the spread of the virus, such as non-compliance with regulations.
Masebe said the province was “prepared and ready” to deal with the surge in Covid-19 numbers, and was continually adding additional hospital beds.
After a provincial cabinet meeting on Sunday, Masuku told EWN that a hard lockdown would not be implemented because of the dire implications it has for the economy.
Instead, the province was looking at changing certain existing regulations to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.