Tighter lockdown for Gauteng? Timing will be critical as Covid-19 cases soar

‘This house is on fire’: premier David Makhura

22 June 2021 - 12:17 By alex patrick
Medical staff at the Covid-19 facility at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto assist a patient out of an ambulance to be admitted for treatment.
Medical staff at the Covid-19 facility at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto assist a patient out of an ambulance to be admitted for treatment.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

Gauteng’s provincial command council meets on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of imposing more severe lockdown restrictions in the province with the highest rate of Covid-19 infections in SA. 

Gauteng premier David Makhura warned on Monday — as military medical personnel were deployed to fight against the pandemic in the province — that the “house is on fire” as infections continued to soar.

Dr Mary Kawonga, chairperson of the premier’s advisory committee on Covid-19, said they meet every Tuesday but this would be a special meeting as the premier had put stricter lockdown regulations on the agenda.

She was reticent to say what the council would advise ahead of the meeting, and stressed that only the national government could make decisions about stricter regulations. 

“My opinion is that timing is really important, it is something to be discussed. I don’t want to go into details but if further restrictions are put in too late they will not have an impact. 

“In the second wave Gauteng was spared and that’s because lockdown measures were imposed at the right time. Otherwise we would have been hit hard.

“The pandemic will peak in the last week of June or early July, so that is in two weeks. If we impose tough measures today, they will only take effect in two weeks.”

Kawonga said if the opportune time to put stronger measures in place passed it did not mean all was lost. “We need to ensure that what drives the pandemic is quashed.”

Speaking on Monday at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Makhura said the army would provide an additional 60 healthcare personnel to the province. He said despite an additional 5,000 health workers, Gauteng needed more hands on deck. They will be rotated to assist in areas with the greatest need. 

“Gauteng is burning, and the province doesn’t want to send out a message that everything is OK.

“The house is on fire. We will not change the projection of the virus unless we change our behaviour.”

He said 40% of the beds allocated for Covid-19 patients were in use. But if he included patients under investigation (PUIs, people displaying symptoms but whose Covid-19 status are yet to be determined), then 72% of those beds were occupied.

“In two weeks’ time those beds will be full. Our first defence is to clear the beds. We do it with a rapid test which will take 15 minutes. Our second defence is to use every available space in hospitals for Covid-19 beds.

“If you were to ask if level 3 lockdown restrictions were working, we have not yet seen the results. Nothing has changed because our behaviour has not changed.”

On the weekend I went driving around the suburbs in Johannesburg. The restaurants were full, people with no masks on. At the malls and shops, people were carrying on as though it was all normal. 
Gauteng premier David Makhura

Makhura said he was speaking about both public and private hospitals.

He also spoke about his dismay at seeing last weekend’s festivities and indicated gatherings should be restricted.

“I went driving around the suburbs in Johannesburg. The restaurants were full, people with no masks on. At the malls and shops, people were carrying on as though it was all normal. 

“In the townships too, people walking around as if everything was normal. I was dismayed to see a big township tournament on Sunday and no masks. 

“Some people have a false sense that the situation has normalised. Even those who have had Covid-19 vaccinations need to adhere to precautions.

“I want to send out a clear message: this house is on fire. We welcome any help we can get from national government.”

A national meeting is set to be held on Thursday in which tighter restrictions and other recommendations will be tabled.

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