Johannesburg - All eyes will be on President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday on whether he will relax restrictions on Covid-19 lockdown regulations after all provinces, including Gauteng which was the epicentre, reached their peak.
Ramaphosa, had two weeks ago, promised to review the regulations including the ban on the sale of alcohol and attendance of religious services pending the conduct of the people towards the Covid-19 pandemic.
He placed the country under level 4 lockdown on June 27 following the massive surge in infections and admissions including deaths due to the pandemic. Now, the president is expected to meet the National Coronavirus Committee and Cabinet on whether to review his decision or maintain the status quo.
Speculations are, however, rife that Ramaphosa would relax the restrictions after the acting Minister Health Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane admitted that there was a significant drop in infections but warned against people “lowering the guard” against the fight against the pandemic.
“The Covid-19 infection cases continue to fluctuate in waves and each wave leaves behind bereaved families and lost loved ones. Each day that this pandemic continues to spread and infect more people, it robs our country of its greatest resource and that is its productive people.
“In the last 24 hours, there were 14 858 new cases, which is a decrease from that of the day before at 16 240 new cases. The number of new cases have been on a downward trend.
“We have also seen a significant drop in numbers in Gauteng which has been the epicentre of the third wave. Although 4 988 new cases are still quite high, it is a significant drop from the provincial peak which went as high as over 16 000 new cases per day,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
She, however, said that the drop in numbers did mean that the nation should lower its guard in the fight against this pandemic.
“Just because the numbers are coming down, does not mean the virus has stopped spreading. The Delta variant is spreading and it is still just as lethal. This means that our fight should rather intensify.
“In the midst of fighting this pandemic, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces got engulfed in social unrest that were very disruptive to our social lives, economic lives and to the healthcare service delivery system, especially in the province of KwaZulu-Natal,” she said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said these riots have added to the complexity of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic saying especially the violent nature of the protests unsettled healthcare as a whole in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“At the height of the unrest, there were disruptions in all areas of the health service delivery system.
“There was a decrease in the number of vaccinations due to the closure of vaccination sites. There was loss of vaccines due to looting. An estimated 120 private pharmacies were destroyed, which led to a loss of approximately 47 500 vaccine doses and lots of damage to infrastructure.
“Fortunately, a large majority of public vaccination sites were not damaged, which means they could immediately resume vaccinating and that is what has happened,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
In the Gauteng province, there was minimal disruption in the healthcare system. Vaccination numbers dropped slightly due to people fearing to go to certain vaccination sites that were closed to the disruptive events.
“All indications are that we have passed the peak of the third wave and the overall number of cases have started to decline. However, we are extremely worried that the many gatherings that we saw during the unrest in the two provinces, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, might lead to another surge in numbers,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.