Lockdown: Level 1 on the cards, with restrictions on gatherings relaxed - sources

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The government is said to want to put SA on lockdown Level 1.
The government is said to want to put SA on lockdown Level 1.
Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa met with the NCCC and the President's Coordinating Council on Wednesday.
  • The government has proposed moving the country from Level 2 to Level 1.
  • The state is considering increasing indoor and outdoor gatherings, which coincide with election campaigning. 

The government is proposing that SA move from adjusted alert Level 2 to Level 1.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Health Minister Joe Phaahla met with provincial premiers and MECs on Thursday afternoon.

Insiders told News24 the biggest controversy was the proposal to change regulations for indoor gatherings from 250 to 700, and from 500 outdoors to 2 500.

READ | J&J's vaccine works as well as the Pfizer or Moderna shots after second dose, study says

These changes on gatherings would also affect faith-based organisations and all establishments. Mask-wearing, along with the social distance and health sanitisation protocols, would remain.

Smaller venues will be allowed 50% of the venue if the 1.5m distance cannot be upheld.

Sport and other gatherings will have to be in line with limitations on inside and outside gatherings, while funerals will remain unchanged.

Changes

The current curfew is expected to be moved from 23:00 to midnight, and will be in place until 04:00. 

Alcohol sales will be permitted, but for onsite and offsite it will be according to licence conditions, while all establishments will have to close at 23:00 to allow staff to be home by 24:00.

Churches and religious institutions will be opened in line with the proposed limitations on gatherings. 

News24 earlier this week reported that several scientists and doctors in the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19 were at odds with the new proposals as the municipal elections loom.

READ | Covid-19: Free coffee, museum tours and dildos: Growing list of discounts, prizes for those who get a jab

One MAC insider felt that politics had taken over the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), with electioneering and voter outreach motivating many of the newly proposed regulations. They also bemoaned the quick shift from Level 3 to Level 2 and now Level 1, which is expected to be announced by Ramaphosa before the weekend.

Government insiders said the move to increase the capacity of gatherings was "clearly a move to accommodate political parties".

"There was also vigorous debate surrounding funerals and opening it up to allow for more people to attend."

Some wanted clarity on the need for the Disaster Management Act, moving forward, and urged the government to scrap it entirely, because there had been a sustained decrease in Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths in all provinces.

Proposal

Ramaphosa is expected to take the proposal to Cabinet and other stakeholders before announcing the changes to the country.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced on Sunday the country had officially exited the third wave of coronavirus infections, with the daily number of new infections on the decline.

Dr Vicky Baillie, a researcher at the SA Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand, previously told News24 that infections had dropped significantly, but the country should not become complacent.

READ | Lockdown: About 600 anti-vaxxers stage illegal protest in Cape Town

She said non-pharmaceutical interventions, in particular masks, should be maintained, as should limits on numbers for group gatherings. She said mass gatherings previously caused super-spreader events - which, in turn, drive new waves.

She added countries that have lowered most of their restrictions were those with high levels of vaccinations, and vaccinations in South Africa were currently stalling.

"I think we shouldn't really move to Level 1 until our vaccination rates are higher, especially in the older age groups. Until our high-risk individuals are safer, we will continue to see people dying unnecessarily," she was quoted as saying.


If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

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