Bans on alcohol and gatherings and bringing the upcoming school holidays forward could be among the new lockdown measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night.
The president is expected to address the nation at 20:00 following multiple National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) meetings over the weekend.
This comes as the deadlier Delta Covid-19 variant has been ravaging Gauteng and fears that it will likely spread to more provinces.
Head of the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), Koleka Mlisana, yesterday said harsher regulations on the movement of people and a total ban on gatherings were urgently needed.
“Looking at how quickly this variant actually leads to increased cases, for the provinces other than Gauteng, we are probably talking a matter of days,” Mlisana said at a press briefing yesterday.
“We are going to make sure that we get onto hard restrictions, tighter restrictions because obviously what actually increases transmissions is person-to-person contact,” Mlisana said. “It’s going to mean we need to be very decisive.”
According to a report from The Sunday Times, NCCC officials were “left shaken” following an expert briefing on Saturday.
Proposals understood to be made during the briefing included banning all gatherings and alcohol sales, bringing the school holidays forward, and further increasingly encouraging work from home where possible.
The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) also met, and insiders told the Sunday Times it had put forward additional restrictions in Gauteng.
The NCCC will meet again today to finalise government’s approach to the recommendations, after which the Presidential Coordinating Council will convene.
There will also be a special cabinet meeting to consider the recommendations from Natjoints, government spokesperson Phumla Williams told The Sunday Times.
Gauteng hits record case numbers as hospitals are strained
Covid-19 statistics published by the Department of Health have shown that daily infections were rising rapidly over the past week.
The 7-day average has climbed from 10,106 cases on Saturday 19 June to 14,814 one week later.
South Africa hit its biggest number of new infections in the third wave on Friday, 25 June, with 18,762 new cases, a 24.5% increase from the day before.
While the national numbers have not yet reached the peak of daily infections experienced during the second wave in January, Gauteng has repeatedly hit new records for daily cases.
Its biggest number yet for the entire pandemic was also recorded on Friday with 11,777 cases, 63% of the total in the country on the day.
On Saturday, a further 11,303 new daily cases were reported.
The charts below show the estimated number of currently infectious people in Gauteng based on the reported new cases in the province, and the reported new cases in the province.
Hospitals under strain
Hospitals in the province have been overwhelmed by patients requiring medical care, with weekly hospital admissions almost as high as during the first wave in July.
South African Medical Association (Sama) chairperson Angelique Coetzee said doctors phoning hospitals looking for beds for Covid-19 patients would not be able to find any.
According to Coetzee and Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at Wits, there was a severe shortage of personnel to man the extra beds made available for Covid-19 treatment.
A big delay in reopening the Charlotte Maxeke hospital since it suffered a fire in April has also exacerbated the problem.
The country’s biggest private hospitals, Mediclinic, Netcare, and Life Healthcare have joined calls for more vigilance and self-regulation in communities as both patient numbers and the severity of their conditions increase.
Richard Friedland, Netcare’s chief executive officer, said his hospital has done everything possible to prepare for the increase in cases.
“We have substantially increased our Covid-19 bed capacity, contracted more resident medical officers and clinical associates and made every effort to ensure that we have adequate supplies of oxygen, the appropriate medication, as well as personal protective equipment to last us through this surge,” he said.