SA's big cities and coronavirus 'hotspots' could remain under level 4
As the country prepares to move into level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown, residents in some metros may remain under level 4.
This is after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday evening that some hotspots may remain unchanged while the rest of the country sees some easing of the lockdown levels.
Ramaphosa announced the start of a consultative process to move the country into level 3 at the end of May. But the president was firm that the government would not adopt a blanket approach in relaxing restrictions, as saving lives remained paramount to SA's risk-adjusted strategy to contain the virus.
President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the country an update on the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic from the Union Buildings in Pretoria on May 13 2020. In his address, the president discussed the country’s screening and testing numbers and cautioned against easing the nationwide lockdown too soon.
The Western Cape, especially Cape Town, is the country's epicentre, with the highest number of Covid-19 infections. The province accounts for more than half of the national total.
Other parts of the country that have given Ramaphosa's government a headache include the Eastern Cape, eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal, and some parts of Gauteng.
When the country moves to level 3 in June, residents these in these areas may still be restricted from moving to other districts and provinces, given the spread in their areas.
“For now, infections are mostly concentrated in a few metropolitan municipalities and districts in the country,” said Ramaphosa.
“It is important that we maintain stringent restrictions in these areas and restrict travel out of these areas to parts of the country with lower rates of infection.
“We will immediately begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on alert level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4.”
The country has been on lockdown for 48 days in an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19.
In the five-level strategy that the government has employed, 21 days were on level 5 — the “hard lockdown” — with strict measures on social distancing, including the shutdown of all businesses other than essential services.
The past 17 days has seen the country under level 4, which has allowed for the partial opening of the economy, including non-essential services, albeit under strict restrictions.
With the most of the country now preparing to get to level 3 by the end of May, it remains to be seen which services will be opened.
According to the government's five-level risk-adjusted strategy, it is proposed that among other things, tobacco products can be sold in level 3.
Off-premises consumption of alcohol — subject to limited hours, which is 8am to midday from Monday to Wednesday, and subject to an approved industry plan on social distance and quantitative restrictions — will also be allowed on level 3.
But even if this happens, residents in metro cities may still be unable to quench their thirst.