Harder lockdown looms in Gauteng

Queues without social distancing in the Johannesburg CBD. / ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Queues without social distancing in the Johannesburg CBD. / ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Gauteng could soon find itself back on Covid-19 lockdown alert level four following a recent surge in infections.

Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku told Sowetan yesterday that an "intermittent lockdown" and taking the province back to level four was being discussed to arrest the recent spikes in infections.

"Intermittent lockdown is an option which is on the table, I think we need to weigh all the merits to be able to give sense to it," he said.

"Remember the president did allude to the fact that one area of the country can remain at a particular level of lockdown. The issue of the lockdown makes it easier to consider some of it to be intermittent so that we don't completely close down activity but we can be able to give time to those who are infected to recover."

By Monday SA's most populous province had 39,841 confirmed cases, a jump of 5,500 from Saturday.

Masuku said areas with the most worrying trends include CBDs in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Germiston which have high activity.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize warned yesterday that South Africa was entering the Covid-19 storm.

Mkhize said contributing factors in Gauteng included inward migration, and large populations in the Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg metros.

Professor Adrian Puren from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said the government has to "think about some type of lockdown" as numbers were rising, especially in Gauteng.

"There are no other interventions... we don't really want to reverse and go back to a hard lockdown, perhaps we would have to think about some type of lockdown or restrictions of mobility in order to try and control that [surge]."

Puren said other countries like Italy, the US and the United Kingdom have also tried an intervention in which certain activities are stopped.

"That's how the approach should be because we can't stop all activities but how can we better manage these activities, in other words if we are looking at shopping centres, can we stagger the hours to ensure that when people attend them they don't congregate."

Puren said SA has by now entered a Covid-19 "trajectory that's probably no different to other countries".

"Remember we [SA] changed our lockdown structures even before we reached peak, we still have a long way to go I am afraid in terms of reaching the peak and the peak declining, that's going to be told by our mortality for example."

It was business as usual at a Soweto Post Office where hundreds queued up without observing social distancing to collect their Covid-19 unemployment grants this week.

In the snaking queues were young men and women with the majority of them not wearing masks.

A 34-year-old man who only identified himself as Dumisani told Sowetan they all received SMSes on Saturday informing them that they could now collect their grant.

"We are scared of contracting Covid-19 but we also need the money, that's the problem. The money is not enough but it's going fill the gaps there and there," Dumisani said.

In Westonaria, a mineworker at the South Deep Gold Mine told Sowetan they believed their company was doing everything to protect them. The 37-year-old man who has been back at work since April 20 said: "A much as we are scared and worried about this because I do not know who's next to get the virus, we are complying at our company."

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