Ramaphosa non-committal about harsher lockdown, but admits new Covid-19 variant is worrying

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa
  • There has been speculation that government would have to impose stricter Covid-19 lockdown measures.
  • This amid a spike in Covid-19 infections in South Africa.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa was non-committal about when the next announcement would be made, but said processes were underway to discuss current lockdown restrictions.
  • Ramaphosa said field hospitals were dismantled because of rental costs, but added that it could be reassembled quickly should the need arise.

Government structures are in meetings to consider whether to implement a harsher Covid-19 lockdown, but President Cyril Ramaphosa is non-committal for now on whether more restrictions are imminent.

In an interview with the SABC's Mzwandile Mbeje on Saturday morning, Ramaphosa said: "We are concerned about the continuing spike in infections."

The lockdown, which started in March, was implemented to protect the health system, he said. 

Our health system is robust. It did withstand the infections that we experienced then. And now it's the second wave and we have a different variant, and that basically means that South Africans must join in complying with current lockdown regulations.
- President Cyril Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa said the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) had met this week and meetings with the provinces will follow on Sunday.

This will be followed by a Cabinet meeting where ministers will look at the recommendations of the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) and the Department of Health.

"It is then we will be able to make a determination and announce it to the nation."

In response to a question on why Covid-19 field hospitals set up during the first wave of infections were dismantled, Ramaphosa said the venue rental was expensive.

Cost of field hospitals

"Not all the field hospitals had been dismantled. What happened is a number of provinces which set up those centres, they had to hire venues at enormous cost, for instance closing down conference venues that charged us hundreds and hundreds of millions [of rand].

"So, when the first wave seemed to be tapering off, they then went in to say, 'Let's look at how we can save costs'. But now that the second wave is here and hospital space is becoming a challenge, we now know what to do. We should be able to very quickly set up these facilities. We haven't reached there yet," Ramaphosa said.

This despite complaints from several provinces - including the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal - that hospitals were running out of bed space and people were dying outside while waiting for beds to become available.

ALSO READ | Western Cape Covid-19 hospital wards at 92% capacity, Cape metro facilities hardest hit

He said government was able to bolster the facilities it had so that these were ready for when the National Health Insurance comes into effect sometime in the near future.

"It's been a balancing act that we've had to put into effect," he said.

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