President Ramaphosa meets with premiers as rumours of further restrictions grow
Cape Town - Provinces concerned with soaring Covid-19 infections and the impact of the lockdown restrictions on their economies met President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday to get some clarity on rumours of further restrictions.
The meeting comes after Ramaphosa called for an emergency meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) last week as the number of deaths continued to rise.
Over the weekend Ramaphosa said: “Cabinet will also look at some of the recommendations coming from our National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (natjoints) and health department. It is then that we will be able to make an announcement to the nation.”
That announcement is expected to take place on Monday night as the presidency said that Ramaphosa will address the nation at 8pm today, on developments relating to the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramaphosa met the NCC, premiers of various provinces and religious leaders on Sunday to discuss the escalating number of Covid-19 cases. According to sources a recommendation was made by the NCCC to put the country on level 4 of restrictions for 30 days but no decision has yet been made.
There has also been no discussions regarding the sale of alcohol despite South African Breweries (SAB) approaching the courts to have the ban lifted.
Ministerial Advisory Committee member Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele said: “It’s a very tough decision for the president, but he will maintain the status quo because the situation has not changed, so we should not expect a relaxation on the regulations. However, he could adjust the current level 3 restrictions we are currently on.”
In the Western Cape the number of deaths have soared dramatically - the total number of deaths is 8182.
Provincial head of department Dr Keith Cloete said: “We currently have 130 -140 deaths reported per day for the past week, which is what we projected for the peak. We have been and will continue to validate our reported deaths against the Medical Research Council’s weekly report on excess deaths, to track for under-reporting on the deaths. The current restrictions have assisted us.”
The current lockdown restrictions imposed by Ramaphosa last year after the country breached one million cases is expected to be up for review after 14 days. Premier Alan Winde is calling on Ramaphosa to reconsider the restrictions.
Winde’s spokesperson, Bianca Capazorio, said: “The Western Cape government was at the time, and still is, constantly evaluating Covid-19 data to assess whether the health system can remain on top of the load, or whether further interventions are needed.
“We have been working to increase capacity in our health-care system, repurposing and bringing online additional beds specifically for Covid-19, putting in place measures and systems that increase efficiency and ensure the quick turnaround of available beds.
“We are constantly working to get the balance right between managing Covid-19 and saving lives, but at the same time ensuring that we are not exacerbating a humanitarian crisis as it is the poor who are hardest hit by increased restrictions.”
According to a presentation by National Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, the Western Cape accounted for around 17.2% of new cases, KwaZulu-Natal for 30.9% and Gauteng for 26.4%.
Mkhize said: “The nature of the pandemic has been devastating and the resurgence has come to decimate more lives. Our figures have gone beyond 1 million and our fatality rate going beyond 30 000. Private hospitals are more under pressure at the moment and there is a huge demand on beds and ventilation. In the Eastern Cape and Western Cape the numbers have exceeded the peak and in Gauteng the numbers are still rising. The challenge is that it's becoming more severe and our health workers have been working non-stop.”
But there is hope as Mkhize announced that the country would be receiving 1 million vaccine doses this month from the Serum Institute of India (SII) and 500 000 doses in February.
Mkhize said 67% to 70% of the population would have to be immunised to stop the spread of the virus.
Department of Health Deputy Director General Dr Anban Pillay said: “There's a huge number of private hospitals and they have been working very closely with private hospitals regarding the number of beds. We are monitoring the situation.
“We have three oxygen suppliers in the country and as the demand for oxygen increases it will put strain on the supply.”