Good news for lockdown rules and COVID-19 in South Africa

South Africa’s COVID-19 infections show signs of slowing across most provinces, and Ramaphosa could announce eased lockdown restrictions later this week.

This is according to a report by The Sunday Times, which cited expert opinions that the pandemic is waning in major provinces such as Gauteng, the Western Cape, and the Eastern Cape.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced yesterday that there are now a total of 553,188 cases of coronavirus in South Africa. This is an increase of 7,712 cases from the 545,476 infections reported previously.

The data shows that there are 301 new COVID-19 related deaths, taking the total to 10,210 casualties, following 305 deaths reported on Friday.

These numbers reflect a continued trend in the decline of daily active cases and an increased recovery rate across the country.

However, professor Salim Abdool Karim has said he is concerned about KwaZulu-Natal, which has a dangerous infection rate.

“If the epidemic really takes off in KZN like what we saw in Gauteng, the number of cases is going to start going up,” he told the Sunday Times.

“Everything is dependent on what happens in KZN this week.”

Addressing the possible easing of lockdown restrictions in the near future, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told the publication that South Africans should receive an update from the NCCC and the president later this week.

“Whilst we are cautiously optimistic, it is still too early for us to make definite conclusions regarding the observed decline.,” Mkhize said.

“We need to continue to track all these indicators and ensure that our testing capacity reflects a realistic picture of our epidemiological status.”

If the South African government is to continue enforcing its lockdown regulations, President Cyril Ramaphosa will need to extend the national state of disaster before Saturday 15 August, when the previous extension expires.

Ramaphosa previously announced an extension to the national state of disaster on 12 July, alongside a number of new restrictions to curb behaviour that was counterproductive to the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.

These changes included the banning of the sale and distribution of alcohol, the reimposition of a curfew, and a concession to allow minibus taxis to operate at full capacity.

The expectation is that the President’s expected address this week will bring several changes to relax lockdown restrictions, provided the data continues to show a decline in active cases across major provinces and the spread of the virus does not rapidly increase in KwaZulu-Natal.

Travel relaxations and alcohol ban

Lockdown rules have already been somewhat relaxed to accommodate leisure travel following Ramaphosa’s original announcement.

Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced on 30 July that the national curfew would be extended to 22:00 to allow restaurants to run profitable dinner services.

Kubayi-Ngubane also said that accommodation would be allowed to open for leisure travel, under the condition that no more than two people or a family with up to two parents and two children share a room.

Inter-provincial travel for leisure is still prohibited, however.

South Africa’s lockdown restrictions have had a significant impact on the economy of the country, resulting in job losses across many industries – especially those which are still restricted by lockdown legislation.

The ongoing ban on the sale of tobacco and alcohol products – which South Africa is the only country to have implemented for an extended period due to the COVID-19 pandemic – has resulted in lost revenue across many other industries – including liquor stores and restaurants.

South Africa vs The World

A recent comparison conducted by MyBroadband found that South Africa’s lockdown regulations are unique in many respects.

Unlike many other countries, South Africa began relaxing lockdown regulations ahead of its peak in confirmed cases, resulting in the virus continuing to spread across the country.

Additionally, South Africa is one of the only countries in the world which has implemented a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.

South Africa is currently on COVID-19 alert level 3, although a series of “advanced level 3” regulations have relaxed this lockdown stage extensively, with the exception of the alcohol ban and curfew that were re-imposed after being lifted.

Now read: How COVID-19 and the lockdown impacted IT equipment sales in South Africa

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Good news for lockdown rules and COVID-19 in South Africa