Covid-19 hotspots face harder lockdowns as SA moves to level 3

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sowetan

As the country gears towards moving down to lockdown alert level 3 on June 1, districts classified as hotspots could return to alert level 4.

This is according to health minister Zweli Mkhize who, during his briefing to the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday, said that although lockdown will be eased for all provinces, areas and districts which are still registering high levels of infections will then be reviewed after two weeks to determine if they should move to different levels based on the rate of infections.

So far, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and eThekwini have been identified as hotspots. These are metropolitan municipalities that have been registering a high number of daily infections and deaths, with Cape Town in the Western Cape being the hardest hit.

The Western Cape accounted for 65,2% of the total 23,615 confirmed cases and 330 of the 481 registered deaths. Gauteng and the Eastern Cape metros are also registering high numbers.

Mkhize said that easing of lockdown has not been done anywhere in the world while the infection rate was still rising but that South Africa presented a special case due to growing poverty and hunger.

“It hasn’t been done in most parts of the world, in fact the WHO criteria are basically saying to us we should wait for a decline in the number of new cases, we must wait until we can show that the risk of spreading the infection is lower,” Mkhize said.

“But we have actually had to move on and reopen even though those situations have not arisen. The reason for it is because there’s a problem of crisis on hunger, on income, on economic recession and also social distress... So it is something that we have to adjust to the fact that we will not be able to reduce the numbers of infections before we open up; all of this we now need to adjust to do this in a slightly different way.”

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