The Durban beachfront on the first day of lockdown. File picture Leon Lestrade / African News Agency (ANA).
The Durban beachfront on the first day of lockdown. File picture Leon Lestrade / African News Agency (ANA).

KwaZulu-Natal not going back to stricter lockdown levels, premier insists

By Nathan Craig and Siboniso Mngadi Time of article published Jun 14, 2020

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Durban - KwaZulu-Natal has no plans of returning to level 4 or 5 of lockdown despite the increase of infections brought by the ease of restrictions.

But Premier Sihle Zikalala said the province would intensify the enforcement of regulations.

“We have not considered going back to stricter levels. We will ensure all safety measures and regulations are followed while we prepare our health facilities to be ready for high volumes of patients.

“We can temporarily close those areas that have been infected for a particular period. We sanitise, disinfect and supply personal protective equipment to all front-line workers to minimise the risk of infections,” he said.

Meanwhile, experts have warned that the worst is still to come.

According to the collaborative work by various experts, the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium, headed by Dr Harry Moultrie, a senior medical epidemiologist based at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), it was reported that between June and November, 40 000 to 45 000 people could die from Covid-19.

The total number of infections between June and November is expected to be between 1 million and 1.2 million.

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala. File photo: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

The projected need for ICU beds is between 20 000 and 35 000, and 75 000 and 90 000 for general beds between the same period.

Provinces were expected to peak at different times, with varying levels of infections and deaths.

National peak infection is expected around mid-July to mid-August.

Speaking in Durban on Thursday, Minister of Police Bheki Cele said there had been an increase in the murder rate since level 3 of the national lockdown and the lifting of the alcohol ban.

“Until June 1, we would have had about 32 people dying nationally during the lockdown.

“But on the first day of alcohol sales being permitted, there were 40 fatalities; on the second day, we lost 51 people; and last Friday, in a period of 12 hours, between 5pm and 5am, we lost another 69 people,” Cele said.

The minister said he feared the growing increase in the murder rate and motor vehicle accidents.

Cele said more had to be done to regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol before the country reached its Covid-19 infection peak.

“Doctors are saying their systems are beginning to get clogged. Trauma units and hospital beds that were available are now occupied by people who have been shot, stabbed or injured due to alcohol-related incidents,” he said.

Cele called on those who sold and drank alcohol to be considerate, saying that citizens needed to take a closer look at the impact of alcohol, and that it was unfortunate that only 31% of citizens consumed alcohol “at the expense of the whole nation”.

He said the alcohol matter “will have to be discussed for a long time”, but if it were up to him, the ban would be reinstated. However, he acknowledged that the decision did not rest with him.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, speaking in the Eastern Cape, said healthcare employees should brace themselves as challenging times still lay ahead.

“We need to remain focused. We have not quite reached the peak yet. We have a lot of difficult days ahead.”

Mkhize said the public needed to take responsibility and to make sure they were not undermining efforts or spreading the virus.

He acknowledged that since lockdown regulations have eased, the number of coronavirus cases has continued to increase and the number of people being hospitalised for Covid-19 also continued to rise.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said alcohol was a particular problem because when it made situations go awry, the health services used are the very same ones needed for the treatment of Covid-19-related cases.

'Reduce alcohol-related admissions'

“Motor vehicle accidents are increasing because they are alcohol- related. Personal violence is on the increase, and the other alcohol- induced health emergencies are all problems requiring emergency room attention, but that is where Covid patients will be located.

“Emergency rooms will be congested. People who are there with alcohol problems run the risk of contracting the virus.”

Karim said when hospitals come under immense stress and when emergency rooms are in the biggest demand during the peak, alcohol-related admissions had to be at a minimum.

“In those instances, alcohol restrictions will be needed. I don’t know if it will work, but in whatever way we can reduce alcohol-related admissions, we must.” Karim added that the flu season was going to be troublesome as Covid-19 and Influenza were similar.

“If someone has a fever, it is going to be hard to determine if it is the flu or Covid. So it means we need to have a greater testing capacity and that is our current problem. There is a growing global demand, and we haven’t been able to secure adequate supply. but we are trying to overcome this challenge.”

Although Karimpredicted tougher tough times ahead, a move back to level 5 was the last resort, and there was a limited window to make the decision. “In many ways, what steps needs to be taken, will depend on the extent to which we as a nation or individuals take up preventative strategies. I am not confident that level 5 will actually slow the virus once it gains momentum. I am not sure the extent to which we can realistically implement those kinds of strict requirements unless we are in a very dire situation. I call level 5 a step of last resorts.”

Meanwhile, in a statement on Thursday, the government said changes to the country’s level 3 lockdown regulations were on the way. Changes would be based on a health assessment presentation next week.

Sunday Tribune

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