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‘Big jump’ in new cases likely to see gatherings restricted: health minister

“It will be necessary to take some precautions. As to exactly what nature and to what extent, that is to be discussed,” said health minister Dr Joseph Phaahla.

Matthew Savides Night news editor
Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla
Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla

It is likely that restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be implemented due to rapidly rising Covid-19 infections across South Africa.

This is according to health minister Dr Joseph Phaahla on Friday — though he was at pains to say that nothing has been “concluded” at this stage.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, there were 2,828 new Covid-19 cases identified in South Africa in the past day along with 12 Covid-19 related deaths. This means that there have been 2,955,328 confirmed infections and 89,783 fatalities to date.

Of the new cases, 2,173 were in Gauteng. Three other provinces also recorded significant increases, though the actual numbers remained relatively low. There were 139 cases in the Western Cape, 116 in the North West and 108 in KwaZulu-Natal — all of them essentially doubling from recent days.

According to the NICD there were also 60 new hospitalisations in the past day, meaning that there are currently 2,211 people being treated in hospital for Covid-19 related complications.

Phaahla was asked during a media briefing on Friday evening whether increased lockdown restrictions would be implemented given the increased cases. He said various meetings were taking place at the weekend to discuss this.

From our [health department] side, at this stage, we are examining the situation. We will make some recommendations in terms of the fact that there is definitely a spiking of infections. In terms of health measures ... we know the measures which have worked and do work [including] reducing crowding, indoors and outdoors, physical distancing, masks, sanitising, washing of hands. Clearly those are the issues ... we will be looking at.

“Judging by the movement of daily infections from around 200 to 300, 400 to 500, to where we're sitting today at just under 3,000 ... it is a big jump.

“It will be necessary to take some precautions. As to exactly what nature and to what extent, that is to be discussed,” said Phaahla.

The government confirmed on Friday morning that President Cyril Ramaphosa will chair a meeting of the national coronavirus command council on Sunday to discuss the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in South Africa.

On Friday, minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele said the outcome of the meeting, as well as discussions in the president’s co-ordinating council and cabinet, would be communicated “in the coming days”.

He said “scientific evidence and submissions by different economic and social sectors [would] inform executive decision-making”.

But on Thursday, Gungubele appeared to rule out another hard lockdown that could wreck Christmas plans for families nationwide.

“We wish there must never be a possibility of locking down this country again. We are still dealing with the damage of 2020,” he told a media briefing after a cabinet meeting.


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