The Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee (MAC) has warned that stricter lockdown measures are needed as a third wave is looming.
News24 reported that the MAC has raised concerns that large gatherings are contributing to the increase in cases in recent weeks.
South Africa has seen a steady increase in Covid-19 cases, with the Free State, Northern Cape, Gauteng, and North West experiencing the start of third waves.
The increase in coronavirus cases started a month ago, when the average daily positives per week was at 1,170.
In May Covid-19 infections increased rapidly, with the average daily positive cases per week increasing to 3,487.
Professor Adrian Puren from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said many provinces are experiencing a rapid increase in cases.
Puren said some areas are already in the midst of a third wave or have not properly exited a second wave.
Amidst the rise in cases, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will meet today to consider limits on large gatherings and an earlier curfew.
According to the News24 report, South Africa could soon be moving to an adjusted level 2 of the lockdown.
This does not come as a surprise. Many experts, including Marc Mendelson, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cape Town, has called for limits on large gatherings.
Mendelson said South Africa needs to put stricter lockdown measures in place, especially around indoor and mass gatherings, to limit the spread of Covid-19.
He said indoor and mass gatherings are linked to super-spreader events, which South Africa should guard against.
Mendelson called on the government to immediately ban mass gatherings and limit indoor gatherings, including at churches, casinos, and other indoor areas.
Professor Alex van den Heever from the Wits School of Governance also said limiting mass gatherings was the right thing to do.
Winter periods make it difficult to contain the virus, which means that even with restrictions it is challenging to avoid another wave.
If South Africa can address gatherings, however, it will reduce the possibility of a severe third wave.
Murmurs of a second “hard” lockdown started last week, and grew louder over the weekend after KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said at a press conference that “looking at the statistics around us, 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.
“Let me make this clear: a second wave of Covid-19 will be stronger and deadlier, not only in terms of taking human lives, it could deal our economy a major blow,” Zikalala said.
Zikalala was talking about the increasing infection rate in KwaZulu-Natal, but he was backed up by statements from Free State health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi, and Mangaung metro spokesperson Qondile Khedama.
Last week, Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize and his wife both tested positive for Covid-19, and he reiterated his call for preventative hygiene measures and social distancing.
As Europe and the US both battle with a second wave, South Africans have started paying closer attention to the number of cases.
Minister Mkize said at a recent press conference that “our epidemiological reports are showing that in the country, over the last seven days there has been an increase of 9.1% in new cases. Similarly, over the last 14 days, there has been an increase of 10.7%.”
He said that in the last seven days, there was a marked increase in the number of new cases in the Western Cape. The province recorded a 42% increase in new infections, and that the government’s terminology defines this significant spike in new cases as a “resurgence”.
However, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday addressed the rumours during a question-and-answer session between the president and the National Council of Provinces.
He said that rumours that the country will be placed under another hard lockdown were untrue.
“I don’t want people to be alarmed. That is simply not true. If it gets there, I will advise the nation.”
National Treasury now estimates that job losses could be between 690 000 and 1.79-million due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the South African economy.
The 690 000 job losses are likely in the event of a quick recovery; the larger figure is a worst-case scenario.
The sectors that will see the largest impact are likely to be:
- Catering and accommodation; and
- Financial and business services.
Avis Budget Rent-a-Car, part of the Barloworld Group, announced that a total of 978 employees would be affected by retrenchment, according to a Fin24 article. This is nearly half of the employees of the company.
Meanwhile, the Bidvest Group’s shares fell more than 5% on Monday after the diversified services and trading company warned of possible job losses as a result of coronavirus-related disruptions across its operations.
This is in addition to running list of companies in South Africa who have gone into business rescue, or foresee retrenchments and job cuts.
- Phumelela Gaming and Leisure (currently in business rescue)
- Afarak Mogale and Afarak South Africa (currently in business rescue)
- SAA (currently in business rescue)
- SA Express (currently in business rescue)
- Edcon (currently in business rescue)
- Comair (currently in business rescue)
- Tiger Brands
- Cell C
- Pam Golding
- Flight Centre