The government expects it could lift South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown entirely by February or March 2022.
This suggestion formed part of discussions at a Cabinet meeting on the relaxation of lockdown measures last week, leading up to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that the country would be moved to an adjusted level 2 lockdown.
Two sources close to the matter have confirmed to Sunday newspaper Rapport that the meeting’s participants also floated the possibility of lifting the lockdown by February or March next year.
To allow for the implementation of Covid-19 lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus, the government has had to repeatedly extend the national state of disaster under the Disaster Management Act (DMA) since March 2020.
In a written response to a question in Parliament this past week, Ramaphosa said the government could lift the state of disaster once organs of state had developed sustainable regulatory measures for controlling Covid-19 without the need for DMA regulations.
“Measures must be infused into policies and regulations to normalise Covid-19 preventative measures in the society,” Ramaphosa wrote.
“The current measures contained in the regulations for dealing with the disaster in the context of the risk-adjusted strategy remain necessary to limit the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Alternatively, if the need to invoke current extraordinary measures provided for under the state of disaster ceased, all the regulations and directions issued under the national state of disaster would also cease to exist.
The president said ongoing assessments by the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet would determine whether the conditions had been satisfied to lift or extend the state of disaster.
The health department’s Nicholas Crisp told Rapport that the department would still require the DMA regulations to handle an anticipated fourth wave of infections, predicted to hit the country around December 2020.
Crisp also said at least 70% of the country’s adults would have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before the regulations were no longer necessary.
As of Saturday, 18 September 2021, over 11.56 million people in South Africa had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, equal to about 29% of the adult population.
70% is around 30 million people, which means a further 18.44 million people would have to be vaccinated before the government could consider lifting the lockdown.
Recent weekday vaccinations have consistently remained above 200,000, while weekend vaccinations are now around 60,000.
If this trend were to continue in the coming months, South Africa could hit the target of 70% in 17 to 18 weeks, around the last week of 2021 or the first week of 2022.
The graph below shows the number of daily vaccinations in each province since the vaccine rollout started.