Johannesburg - Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele says “family meetings” to announce the easing of the lockdown restrictions was not yet on the cards.
Responding to questions at a post-cabinet briefing, Gungubele said there were at least three factors considered for the easing of the restrictions.
“Whether it is going to be eased or not, it depends a lot on the rate of infections. Secondly, it depends on the degree to which our facilities cope.
“Thirdly, of course mainly, it depends on us sticking to non-pharmaceutical measures,” he said.
The minister said the convening of the “family meetings”, where President Cyril Ramaphosa normally announces moving the country to different alert levels, depended on the advice given to the NCCC (National Coronavirus Command Council) meeting to determine whether a new announcement be made.
“The current protocols are extended to October 15 so on that basis there is nothing to share with the family.”
Gungubele said Cabinet had at its meeting extended the national state of disaster to October 15.
“Cabinet approved that the country should remain on Alert Level 3 of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
On Wednesday, the cumulative number of Covid-19 cases stood at 2 787 203 with 9 544 new cases reported.
There were 235 deaths, bringing the total to 82 496 deaths.
Gungubele said the cabinet was apprised by the Department of Health on the progress of the vaccination roll-out programme.
“Cabinet noted the decline in new infections, as well as hospital admissions and reported death cases.”
He, however, said the cabinet noted the increase in infection reproduction rates.
“The Department of Health assured the cabinet that more work is being done to understand and contain the reported school cluster outbreaks, particularly in the Eastern Cape.
“Cabinet appeals to parents, learners and school governing bodies to ensure strict adherence to the wearing of masks, ventilation, social distancing and hand-washing hygiene.
“Strict adherence to the non-pharmaceutical health protocols remains the most effective defence against the spread of the virus.”
Gungubele said more than 12 568 525 doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered across the country as at Tuesday.
“We are not very much disturbed by that number. We want a better number than that,” he said, adding that “there was an improvement since the young people we allowed to vaccinate”.
He encouraged the people not be diverted by unverified information about the vaccination.
“If you want to liberate the economy which is not doing nicely, it is very critical for freedom of movement in South Africa to be realised quickly and vaccination is the route to go, so that we actually lift those who are poor, deal with inequality and put our economy on track,” he said.
The minister said the increased number of vaccination sites, and extended vaccination days and the provision of free transport by provinces would result in a significant increase in the number of people who will be fully vaccinated.
“Cabinet encourages unvaccinated people in our country, especially adults and those at high risk of developing severe illness, to vaccinate as quickly as possible.
“Vaccines hold good benefits for our health as they prevent serious illness, hospitalisation and death,” he said.
Asked about plans by Health minister Joe Phaahla to introduce the possibility of a vaccine passport system where owners of premises could refuse entry to unvaccinated people, Gungubele said Ramaphosa has directed the cabinet to look at all possible innovations that could assist in allowing more activities in the country.
“The issue of the vaccine passport is one of the innovative ideas that will be attended to as well looking at the total package of innovative ideas on how to set the country free so that the economy can start flourishing,” he said.