FACT CHECK | Will President Cyril Ramaphosa take SA into a hard lockdown tonight? Not so fast

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  • Social networks have been buzzing with talk that South Africans could face more Covid-19 restrictions this week, similar to the lockdown that was seen in April.
  • The meetings leading up to an announcement of tighter regulations haven't happened as yet, and is unlikely to happen this week. 
  • The current restrictions under the adjusted Level 3 lockdown expire on 15 January. 

Rumours have been doing the rounds that South Africa is set to go into a hard lockdown again this week due to rising Covid-19 infections.

On Sunday, a message was distributed on social media networks quoting "a source close to the command council" as saying that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) had met "today morning planning on how which measures to put to curb the continued rise of positive cases" (sic).

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It also quotes a part of the story that appeared on News24 last Sunday when the council did meet ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing a stricter lockdown last week.

The message further says: "It is believed that the President will take South Africa to level 5 of the lockdown for a period of 7 days starting tomorrow midnight" (sic).   

Government spokesperson Phumla Williams, however, tweeted a screenshot of the message and said it was fake.

She told News24 that there could be no adjustment of the lockdown on Monday as the right processes hadn’t been followed. She added that, unless there was a dramatic change in the situation, it was highly unlikely that there would be any address by Ramaphosa on the situation at all this week.

There are certain meetings and consultations that have to happen before changes are made to lockdown levels, and these usually take a day or two.

She said:

The process as we have it on the monitoring of the Covid-19 process starts at the NatJoints (National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure) where all the [directors-general] and operational people that are monitoring various aspects sit.

This structure normally meets on a Sunday to prepare for the NCCC to meet on a Tuesday. This council then takes decisions and these decisions are discussed when Cabinet meets the day after, before any announcements can be made by the president.

Cabinet only meets every second week, but special meetings can be called in exceptional circumstances, as happened last week when the NCCC sat on the Sunday after Christmas, followed by a Cabinet meeting on Monday, which allowed Ramaphosa to announce restrictions to curb possible super-spreader events around New Year's Day celebrations.

Reported Covid-19 infections passed the million mark on that Sunday when the meeting was held, and it became evident that these infections were surging to such an extent that hospitals and health workers were struggling to cope.

Williams added: "As we speak now, NatJoints has not met, so there is no planned NCCC this week. If it had met, then on Tuesday it would have been the NCCC."

Unless "something major happens with the country to warrant it". Williams said it was unlikely that the meeting would happen this week. 

But it is likely that the president will have to make an announcement before next Friday, 15 January, which is the deadline for the restrictions he announced last week, such as the booze ban. 

The rumours about South Africa going into a Level 5 lockdown this week are, therefore, unfounded.

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