Scientific modelling showed benefits of lockdown decreased over time - Health Minister
Johannesburg - Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhzie says the scientific modelling has shown that the national lockdown had the desired effect and its extension would not yield further gains.
Mkhize said he noted criticism from various industries about the justification for the lockdown and questions about whether it should be extended. He said that the decision announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week to go into a phased alert level lockdown was based on sound scientific advice.
Ramaphosa said from May 1 the country would implement an alert system to ending the lockdown. It will include five stages and from Friday the country will go into level four which will see some sectors resume operations. Assessments would be made on moving from levels.
Mkhize said the lockdown had many benefits in that it allowed the government to better prepare for a surge in cases. It had also pushed back the country’s expected peak of infections to around September instead of June/July.
Mkhize said scientific modelling had shown that over time the lockdown would not work as the benefits decreased. The socio-economic issues affecting the country, with the continued closure of businesses, was also considered.
"When we looked at the intervention of the lockdown the important question we had was for how long a lockdown would be needed to have its desired impact. What the models ultimately demonstrated is that over time, the benefits of the lockdown begin to wane. There does not come a point where the adverse effects of a lockdown outweigh the benefits," Mkhize said.
He admitted infections had not stopped during the lockdown but instead the trend had been a spread among community transmissions. The two-week extension of the lockdown had allowed for an increase in community screening and testing across the public and private sector.
He said it was justified to move towards an alert system and focusing on hotspots, a model followed in China.
So far, the country had recorded 4 996 cases and 93 deaths.
Testing has been recorded at over 185 000 with over 6 million people had been screened across the country.
Mkhize also reiterated that the number of people who had died usually had underlying health conditions.
He said the country's mortality rate had been low, at 1.9%, and this was largely attributed to the fact the number of those infected had been healthy and young which contributed to recoveries, Mkhize said.