Harder lockdown for Gauteng 'under discussion' as Covid-19 cases surge
Various versions of lockdown are being considered by health officials as Covid-19 cases in Gauteng accelerate to the point where the province is expected to soon become the epicentre of the pandemic in SA.
The health department said the province's daily increase in infection rates could see it surpassing the Western Cape as the province with the most Covid-19 cases.
To date, Gauteng has 42,881 confirmed cases and 216 deaths.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize this week said factors contributing to the increase were inward migration, the large population, increased congregating which spurs cluster outbreaks, and the level to which people can adapt to new behaviours such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.
Mkhize said it was inevitable there would be cluster outbreaks as infections spilled from communities into places of congregation such as mines, factories, taxis and buses.
“The surge witnessed in the past two weeks has developed due to the speeding of infections carried in by members of the community as they moved back into the workplace,” said Mkhize.
Options for Gauteng
Speaking on 702 on Tuesday, Mkhize warned that another hard lockdown “may become necessary” as infections and deaths continue to increase.
“We have warned that a surge will come, especially in the winter months,” said Mkhize.
“I'm afraid the numbers are increasing and we need people to be aware and take all the necessary precautions to try to protect ourselves.”
Mkhize said the surge in Gauteng was increasing more than initially anticipated. He said a “hard lockdown” remains a possibility to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“A hard lockdown will remain a possibility. When we had the first lockdown, it was not because it would be the last time we do it. It may be necessary, and when the time comes we will talk about it.”
Localised lockdown measures
Mkhize told SAfm there was a possibility the government may order localised lockdown measures if necessary.
He said while the national command council (NCC) has not made a decision yet regarding another hard lockdown, government may place restrictions in localised areas if there is a need.
“There has not been any decision taken to have another hard lockdown, and certainly the NCC does not take lightly a decision of that nature. There may be a need in some areas for restrictions. It may not be national but localised. No such decision has been taken yet,” he said.
Mkhize said one of the challenges in Gauteng was the fact that there are different metropolitan areas.
“As we move into the future we need to be open-minded about what our needs are.
“We could not sustain the lockdown the way it was. We needed people to get back to their jobs and for the economy to be revived. We needed to do that under new circumstances where we use masks, socially distance and sanitise our hands. A lot of prevention is in the hands of our society.”
Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku on Monday told 702 that the Gauteng provincial government may look at an “intermittent lockdown” as the province prepares for a peak in Covid-19 cases.
Masuku said an intermittent lockdown would see the province open up and then close the economy for a period.
“We are looking at an intermittent lockdown, which we have seen working quite well in other countries, where there will be a period where there will be opening and a period where there is a lockdown to contain infections,” he said. “The literature has shown it could be one of the options. It is a matter under discussion and we are considering it,” Masuku said.