Push for tighter lockdown in SA – here’s what the experts say

Zweli Mkhize | Google

It’s not a question of if South Africa will see a third wave, it’s a matter of when and what curve the wave will take. According to experts, there are currently three scenarios for South Africa’s third Covid-19 wave, however, despite the outcome, health experts are still warning the South African government to implement tighter lockdown restrictions to help buffer the effects of a looming third wave.

On Thursday (7 May) Dr Zweli Mkhize said that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is currently deliberating the matter of border control and its decision will be communicated to the public. In the meantime, Mkhize encouraged South Africans to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions (like social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitizing) to avoid further restrictions.

Health experts are saying that South Africa should introduce stricter lockdown regulations to avoid the impact of new Covid-19 variants and a possibly severe third wave. This week, both the UK and Indian Covid variants were confirmed in the country. Of the B.1.1.7 variant which was first detected in the UK, there were 11 confirmed cases, while the B.1.617.2 variant, which was first detected in India, four cases have been confirmed.

According to authorities, the UK variant has already entered community transmission but the Indian variant has been contained. Dr Asmal Dasoo, convenor of the Progressive Health Forum, told News24 that South Africa should move to a higher lockdown level to especially further limit gatherings.

Read More | South Africans can now register to get vaccinated using WhatsApp and a USSD code

He said that the most important thing was to prepare healthcare workers for an influx of new cases and that ideally gatherings should be limited to around 10 people.

Alex van den Heever, Chair of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand agreed. van den Heever said that restrictions will need to be introduced as the country ramps up its vaccination programme. “All we have to do now is block all gatherings of more than ten people. Once you have more than ten people, the spread becomes more exponential,” he said.

He added that a travel ban on the UK and India was unlikely to make much difference, as Covid-19 variants from these two countries have likely been circulating in South Africa for much longer than expected.

Speaking to eNCA, professor Adrian Puren of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that non-pharmaceutical interventions will be key to addressing a Covid surge. Puren also added that with such a small percentage of the population being vaccinated, a level 3 lockdown (as implemented during the country’s second wave) could be a key tool in the country’s fight against a third one.

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