President: Lockdown level 3 looms

The state of readiness to deal with infected patients, and the capacity of health facilities may be crucial in determining restriction levels in Covid-19 hotspots.

As the country prepares for the gradual opening of the economy, government may in the coming months consider stricter designated lockdown levels in some Covid-19 hotspots.

This was hinted at by the President, Cyril Ramaphosa this evening, as he announced that the country may move to lockdown level three by the end of May.

The state of readiness and capacity of health facilities to cope with treating infected patients may be critical in determining these restrictions, he said, as infections seem to be concentrated in a few metropolitan areas and districts.

Ramaphosa said the loss of 219 lives to Covid-19 was indeed a tragedy, and that citizens shouldn’t lose sight that human lives are at stake.

“This virus is taking a heavy toll on the health of people, their ability to earn a living, to learn and develop, and to enjoy the many freedoms we take for granted.”

He said the first seven weeks of the lockdown proved “absolutely necessary” and that according to projections, at least 80 000 citizens would have been infected by now had it not been for the restrictions.

He highlighted that the recovery rate of 4 745 people among Covid-19 patients was commendable. Perhaps the biggest advantage the lockdown has thus far given the country, he said, was the ability to strengthen the capacity of the healthcare system.

“We developed programmes to better manage infections.  A total of 25 000 additional beds are available for quarantine. We were able to sources and produce substantial quantities of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers, vital medical equipment and other supplies, and managed to significantly expand our testing and screening programmes.”

The sustained implementation of certain prevention measures, he said, will ultimately determine the country’s ability to overcome the disease. He listed these on various levels:

  • Lockdown (including extreme social distancing).
  • Social distancing.
  • Adopting hand hygiene practices.
  • Cough etiquette (by coughing into elbow).
  • PPE for all health workers.
  • Frequent cleaning of the work environment and other public spaces.
  • Screening.
  • Testing, isolation, quarantining and contact tracing.

He reiterated that South Africans will have to undergo behavioural changes in terms of how they fundamentally think of their own health, and the health of others, as the virus will still be present for a long time to come. In this regard, he said he was encouraged by the way in which citizens have heeded the call to wear masks.

The president also made reference to unclear decisions communicated to the nation, and inconsistent enforcement of regulations.

“As we have confronted these unprecedented challenges, we may sometimes have fallen short of your expectations. Where we made mistakes, we will make amends. Some actions were unclear, some contradictory, some poorly explained, while some evoked anger.”

He reaffirmed government’s commitment to safeguard the lives and dignity of all citizens, and added that once cabinet has finalised talks on level three regulations, these would be communicated to the nation.

In conclusion, the president referred to a quote by the late president, Nelson Mandela when faced with the threat of HIV/aids in the country: “We must rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people.  History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now.”

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