In the South African context, there is close to zero value in going back to a hard lockdown as it is not going to achieve anything different in controlling the epidemic.
This is the view of Professor Shabir Madhi from the school of pathology at the University of the Witwatersrand.
The latest data released by health minister Zweli Mkhize shows that there are now 732,414 confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa with 19,677 deaths.
What concerns the government is the increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases, especially in provinces like the Eastern Cape.
The increase in cases, Madhi said, is a result of people not adhering to regulations around social distancing and wearing masks.
The increases in cases and don’t-care attitude has prompted some politicians, like KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, to warn that a return to a hard lockdown was on the cards.
“Looking at the statistics, we can now safely say that we are definitely going back into a hard lockdown if there is no urgent and drastic change in behaviour,” said Zikalala.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, however, dismissed speculation that South Africa is returning to a hard lockdown, saying no such decision has been made.
Ramaphosa said they are starting to see signs which are of concern to them, including super spreader events.
Second hard lockdown will not help South Africa
Commenting on the speculation of returning to a harder lockdown, Madhi said there is virtually zero value in going to higher levels of lockdown.
“It is not going to achieve anything different medically and in terms of controlling the epidemic relative to people adhering to the current regulations,” he said.
“Even during the level 5 lockdown in South Africa, there was still ongoing community transmission.”
He said all that the strict lockdown really achieved was to delay the pandemic a few weeks into the future.
The number of infections in South Africa would have occurred irrespective of whether we had a lockdown or not.
The only difference is that South African healthcare facilities could prepare, as the lockdown bought them time.
“Now that the healthcare facilities should be prepared that is not a reason to go into a lockdown anymore,” Madhi said.
He added that the lockdown had a big impact on the economy of the country and the livelihoods of people.
“A second lockdown is not an option for South Africa,” he said.
Madhi’s view is in line with that of South African Medical Association (SAMA) chairperson Angelique Coetzee, who said there is currently not a strong case for a second hard lockdown.
She said the most important thing to do at this point is to tweak the current restrictions to focus on mass gatherings.
“Mass gatherings, like bars, sporting events, churches, and funerals, is where our super spreaders normally start,” Coetzee said.
She further urged people to adhere to the current guidelines like wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands regularly.