As South Africa approaches two-weeks of a three-week lockdown period, questions have been raised about whether it should be extended.
Local cases of Covid-19 coronavirus climbed by 96 to 1,845 on Wednesday (8 April) – the biggest daily increase since March.
The Department of Health also reported five new Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 18.
A report has suggested that new infections in South Africa could only peak in June, which would likely lead to a lockdown extension.
Economists have warned however, that South Africa cannot afford an extended shutdown.
United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa took to social media to ask South Africans if they think the country’s lockdown regulations are effective and how they should change.
In a post published on Twitter on Wednesday (8 April), Holomisa asked his followers if any of the countries lockdown regulations should be reviewed, and asked them to explain why.
Some of the suggestions included the following:
A five-day ‘breather’ at the end of the current lockdown period before extending it further;
Relaxing the list of ‘essential goods’ which may be purchased to allow for the purchasing of baby clothes and other basic items;
Removing the prohibition on cigarettes and alcohol as it is encouraging illicit (organised crime) trade;
Allowing essential businesses to sell non-essential goods;
Allowing restaurants to trade through takeaways and food delivery services such as Uber Eats;
Forcing all places that use fingerprint biometric access control to properly sanitise fingers and readers before and after scanning;
Politicians, especially members of parliament, should donate at least 50% of their salary to the needy and the poor;
Keeping the alcohol ban in place;
A partial lifting of the lockdown in some areas of the country;
Broadening of the definition of “essential workers” and those that are allowed to work;
Relaxing of rules in estates/complexes;
Government-mandated payment holidays from banks.
What the numbers show
South Africa’s latest coronavirus figures showed that the country is still relatively early in its spread and has time to ‘flatten the curve’, said World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesperson Dr Margaret Harris.
Speaking in an interview with eNCA on Wednesday (8 April), Harris said that South Africa gave itself ‘time and space’ by instituting the lockdown when it did.
“You have got the time to find the virus and you’ve got the time to put in social distancing measures to make sure people are genuinely not crowding together.
“That doesn’t mean that you have to stop society, but it does mean that you have to look at how you can limit the opportunities for people to be packed together.”
Harris said that testing, finding all of the people who have been infected and ensuring that they self-isolate should remain the key priority – irrespective of whether the country is on a lockdown or not.
Globally, coronavirus cases have climbed to 1,518,970, with 88,516 deaths, and 330,697 recoveries.
A victim of its own success
While this analysis can largely be seen as a positive, Dean of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Nursing and Public Health, professor Mosa Moshabela, said that the country may ultimately be a ‘victim of its own success’ because of how it appears to have successfully contained the number of coronavirus cases.
“So far, in as much as there are challenges – including the fact that we are not testing everyone yet – we don’t really know the true figure of what the burden is. Based on the numbers, it looks like we are doing well.
“The problem with doing well is that you are actually flattening the curve – and when you flatten the curve, the problem of Covid-19 is going to remain low, but for much longer.
“When you become a victim of your own success, it means that you may have to be subjected to an extended lockdown because you are doing well at keeping the figures low,” he said.
However, the professor warned that citizens could suffer from ‘lockdown fatigue’ as the uncertainty of economic pressures of restrictions weighs down on ordinary South Africans.
No decision made yet
Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu said that president Cyril Ramaphosa is still yet to make a decision on extending the lockdown as he considers all options based on scientific modelling and advice as well as the possible economic repercussions.
Speaking in an interview with News24, Mthembu said that the president will consult with various sectors and stakeholders before making a decision as he did before he announced the lockdown almost three weeks ago.
“First, we must make a proper assessment if we have achieved all of our objectives, which was to a greater degree to flatten the infection curve and ensure it doesn’t peak. What we’ll have to review is whether we’ve achieved that,” he said.
“The issue of the extension has not yet arisen. If it comes, there will be serious decisions to be made.
“The National Command Council discusses all recommendations that come before it, and there must be scientific evidence supporting any recommendation from the national joint operational and intelligence structure,” Mthembu said.