Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku has blamed the accelerated spread of COVID-19 in the province on the “blatant disregard” of lockdown regulations, among other factors.
Speaking in an interview with eNCA on 5 July, Masuku said that the province was in discussions with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) about how it could more strictly enforce the advanced level 3 lockdown restrictions.
The number of recorded COVID-19 cases in South Africa rose to 205,721 on 6 July, breaching the 200,000-mark.
Gauteng has emerged as a major hotspot, accounting for 32.5% of all COVID-19 cases with 66,891 recorded cases in the province.
The Gauteng government was previously discussing a plan to re-implement a hard lockdown in the province, but Masuku told eNCA the executive council has agreed to look at stricter enforcement of the current regulations instead.
“What we agreed on as the executive council is to see how we are able to apply and enforce the regulations that will help us to reduce the rate of transmission,” he said.
“These regulations are the ones that are already applied but are not being respected by the community.”
Masuku said the biggest problem was the adherence to rules around public gatherings.
“People have defied that. People are deliberately and intentionally organising social events, parties, and weddings.”
“There are regulations that prohibit those types of interactions and we want to see those being enforced,” he said.
Masuku added that people should not gather in any groups if it is not necessary.
Working with police and soldiers to enforce lockdown rules
One new restriction being considered by Gauteng is the limitation of alcohol sales to only one day per week.
Masuku did not confirm whether this would be implemented, stating only that the province had the power to regulate the sale of alcohol and it has noted the effect reopening sales has had on hospitals in the province.
“The issue of alcohol restriction is within the provincial purview and we can regulate it,” he said.
“We have seen the impact of reintroducing the sale of alcohol, what it has done to our casualties, to our trauma units, and it is something that as the provincial government we took a very strong decision around and we just feel that it should be properly regulated.”
Masuku’s statements that Gauteng would further clamp down on enforcement were supported by provincial spokesperson Thabo Masebe, who confirmed yesterday that the provincial government would not push for a hard lockdown.
“We are not calling for the return of hard lockdown. We fully understand and support the current risk-adjusted strategy, which is being implemented by the national government,” Masebe said.
“The things that we are looking at is the continued use of police, being supported by soldiers, to got to places and help enforce regulations.”
“We will also continue working with other spheres of government to go factories, shopping malls, and other places to ensure that people follow the regulations,” Masebe said.
National Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has not ruled out the possibility of a hard lockdown in the province, however, stating that this would be evaluated by the NCCC.
“At the moment we’ve not taken a decision for a hard lockdown but it cannot be ruled out as a future instrument that can be used,” he said.