Johannesburg | “The house is on fire, we will not change the trajectory of the pandemic if we do not do dramatic things,” Gauteng Premier David Makhura said when he welcomed the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) military health service to Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital on Monday, 21 June.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s last “family meeting” is still fresh in South African’s minds.
Having moved to lockdown level 3 only a week ago on 16 June, speculation is rife that stricter lockdown regulations are imminent in Gauteng and the province could possibly even be moved to lockdown level 5.
South Africa Medical Association (Sama) chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee has in several media interviews in the past two weeks called for stricter lockdown measures to curb the spread of the third wave of Covid-19.
When the country moved to lockdown level 2 at the end of May, Sama voiced the opinion it was not enough.
Again after the country moved to lockdown level 3 last week, Coetzee said more intervention was needed if South Africa is going to survive the pandemic.
Sama has called for tighter restrictions on gatherings, schools, especially in Gauteng, and getting people to stay at home as much as possible. “If we want to get out of this, we need to make tough decisions,” Coetzee said.
Makhura yesterday said: “I can’t say that what we have done is enough, but we cannot rule that out that we may need more restrictions.”
He said while in the second wave the province peaked at 6,900 daily infections. Gauteng has now surpassed that number. On Sunday Gauteng recorded 8,640 new infections, its highest yet.
The healthcare sector is under pressure with 5,218 patients in both public and private sector hospitals, Makhura said, adding that the province could run out of beds in seven days.
Is level 5 lockdown a real possibility?
The South African Government website lists the criteria for determination of alert levels as the following:
Alert levels determine the level of restrictions to be applied during the national state of disaster.
- Alert Level 1 indicates a low Covid-19 spread with a high health system readiness;
- Alert Level 2 indicates a moderate Covid-19 spread with a high health system readiness;
- Alert Level 3 indicates a moderate Covid-19 spread with a moderate health system readiness;
- Alert Level 4 indicates a moderate to a high Covid-19 spread with a low to moderate health system readiness;
- Alert Level 5 indicates a high Covid-19 spread with a low health system readiness.
As Makhura said, Gauteng is on fire and the province has a shortage of 1,100 Covid-19 beds as Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital is still closed after a fire in April.
According to Business Day, the Cabinet decided to impose light restrictions last week, opting against a proposal by the national command council for stronger measures, including a total ban on alcohol sales for a few days.
But as things stand, chances are likely that Gauteng at least will need to implement stricter lockdown regulations. A Johannesburg private emergency room doctor told Business Day they have enough oxygen, but they’re running out of oxygen ports and concentrators. He says he fears there’ll be a total patient onslaught next week when the third wave’s peak is expected to hit.
What a harder lockdown could look like
One of two things could happen should the government decide to move Gauteng to a higher alert level:
The province could move to an adjusted level 5 lockdown, which could look like this:
- No alcohol will be sold on-site or off-site.
- No gatherings allowed.
- You will be allowed to attend a funeral, but no more than 50 people can be in attendance, no vigil must be held and all safety measures should be followed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
- Fitness centres, restaurants and bars will need to close.
- No interprovincial or international travel will be allowed.
- An earlier curfew from 8pm to 6am.
Chances of the government imposing a hard level 5 lockdown like that implemented early in 2020 is slim as South Africa does not have the resources to support businesses that are forced to shut or workers who lose their jobs.
However, according to Business Day, the possibility of recommending severe restrictions similar to those imposed during the level 4 and 5 lockdowns will be on the agenda when Gauteng’s provincial command council meets on Tuesday. The national interministerial committee is meeting on Thursday to consider the government’s response.