SA now in the 'post-Covid new normal', says Prof Salim Abdool Karim

15 September 2020 - 06:45
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Prof Salim Abdool Karim is concerned that
Image: Sandile Ndlovu Prof Salim Abdool Karim is concerned that "super-spreader" events could spark a second resurgence in coronavirus cases.

Prof Salim Abdool Karim says SA is now in a “post-Covid new normal” but worries that “super-spreader” events could spark a second resurgence in cases.

The chairperson of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee told 702 on Monday that certain events, including large gatherings, should still be treated with extreme caution when the country moves to lockdown level 1.

“Where there is a large number of people, it’s not always easy to implement social distancing and mask-wearing and so on. In those settings, we have to have a situation where we reduce our risk of super-spreading events,” he said.

Abdool Karim said the curfew and restrictions around alcohol had largely served their purpose during the lockdown and were not needed any more.

“They were put in to protect hospitals, we don't have an issue with hospital space and beds at the moment. Those are less critical at this point and not needed,” said Abdool Karim.

He said the sports sector and nightclubs could lead to “super-spreader” events and the country could go back to square one if they are not opened in a safe way.

“For example, there is no reason why restaurants should not be open even though they carry risk, as long as we have certain restrictions like the number that can be there, the distancing that is maintained between staff, etc,” he said.

“We are now in the post-Covid new normal. It is not the old normal and people shouldn’t think we are going back to the old normal. We will have to find a way to adapt to the new normal.”

TimesLIVE reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to address the nation sometime this week about reducing the level of lockdown restrictions.

Answering questions posed by the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) last week, Ramaphosa said the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) was evaluating several proposals regarding a further easing of lockdown restrictions in SA.

Ramaphosa said some of the proposals were from religious leaders who were requesting an extension in the number of people who may attend gatherings.

He said the sports sector and the entertainment, hotel and tourism industry had also submitted proposals.

Speaking to media last week, health minister Zweli Mkhize said SA had passed the surge and the worst was over.

He said hospitalisation numbers had reduced, and the number of people in intensive care was reducing.

Mkhize also said SA's Covid-19 data showed an improvement and it was time for the country to move to level 1.

“The sooner we can get to level 1 the better. The sooner we have a normal economy the better, it is better for the country. We are hoping South Africans will understand that to get there, we have to make sure we are just as cautious in level 2 so that there is no resurgence.”