The Gauteng government wants to reintroduce a hard lockdown in the province to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19.
The Sunday Times reported that the plan is to “close down” the province for up to two weeks and then open it up again.
“Nobody goes to work, and no-one moves. Then the economy opens up again for a particular period of time and then it closes again,” Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku told the newspaper.
Masuku added that strict lockdown rules, similar to the level 5 national lockdown in April, are needed to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.
On Thursday, Gauteng premier David Makhura said the COVID-19 storm has arrived in the province, which could necessitate the reintroduction of stricter lockdown rules.
Makhura said that his provincial government will continue to push for behavioural change at a ward-level, but cautioned that this will likely not be enough.
“We are also making presentations to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) at reinstating some of the harsher and more stringent (lockdown) measures,” said Makhura.
BusinessTech and the Sunday Times reported that specific issues which are being considered include:
- More stringent restrictions on the movement of people.
- Limiting the number of learners who can return to school.
- Limiting the sale of alcohol to only one day per week.
- Banning weddings, protests and church gatherings.
- Limiting the number of people at funerals to 20.
“Given what we are going through now, and the fact that things will get worse in July, we cannot just throw our hands in the air and say that there is nothing that we can do,” Makhura said.
NCCC to decide
The decision to implement a lockdown is taken by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), and a hard lockdown may be a hard sell.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday the government is not considering returning to a hard lockdown.
“Another hard lockdown is not being considered for now, the issue of jobs lost concerns us. Other countries are experiencing even bigger losses,” Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa said the government would rather consider other options in the “toolbox” in fighting the pandemic.
He said the increase in numbers was expected but the NCCC will examine the situation in the hardest-hit provinces – Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and Western Cape.
Prof Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of the COVID-19 ministerial advisory committee, told ENCA a strict lockdown is one of their prevention strategies to fight the coronavirus.
“You cannot go into battle with this virus and say I am not going to use one of my most powerful weapons,” he said.
The question, Karim said, is when to use it. “I call it a tool of last resort. When we get to a point where everything else is failing us, it becomes the tool we need to go to”.
The said the main criteria for reintroducing a strict lockdown in Gauteng is to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.
“We are not there yet, but the rate at which we’re going we are going to get there is pretty quickly,” he said.
Rapid growth of COVID-19 in Gauteng
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced on Saturday that there are now 187,977 COVID-19 cases in South Africa.
Over the last 24 hours, 10,853 coronavirus cases were recorded – a new daily high for South Africa.
74 more COVID-19 related deaths were reported, which brings the total number of deaths to 3,026.
Gauteng now has 59,373 total COVID-19 cases, up 5,042 over the last 24 hours. This means Gauteng is South Africa’s new coronavirus epicentre.
Karin said it was always expected that the virus would spread the fastest in Gauteng for two reasons:
- The number of foreign and domestic travellers are the highest in Gauteng.
- The province has the highest population density – Johannesburg is SA’s New York equivalent.
He said the lockdown in April and May stemmed the spread of the virus in Gauteng, which gave the province time to prepare for the inevitable storm which it is now facing.
The chart below, courtesy of Hydra, shows the spread of the coronavirus in Gauteng over the last few months.