COVID restrictions masks

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Image: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

New lockdown restrictions now ‘imminent’ – but how far will Ramaphosa go?

Experts in SA are resigned to the fact that more lockdown restrictions will be announced ‘very soon’, with crunch talks starting this week.

COVID restrictions masks

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Image: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Trying to predict South Africa’s next move for setting out further lockdown restrictions is proving to be a very tricky task. President Ramaphosa is under pressure to shore-up South Africa’s defences against Omicron, but Cyril has yet to hit the panic button as the new variant continues to spread.

Omicron threat: Is Ramaphosa ready to ramp-up regulations?

SA remains at Level 1 of lockdown, with restrictions at their loosest possible phase under the State of Disaster act. An explosion of cases left the country shell-shocked, but early signs suggest that infection through Omicron is causing more mild disease than what’s been witnessed in previous waves.

However, despite keeping a cool head over the past few weeks, Ramaphosa’s perspective could be influenced by his own COVID-19 diagnosis on Sunday. The president, who has thanked his two vaccine doses for ensuring that his symptoms remain mild, tested positive late last night.

Whatever happens, we know the NCCC is meeting this week to discuss possible changes to our current lockdown restrictions. Should a ‘family meeting’ need to take place, it’s assumed Cyril Ramaphosa will still be able to deliver a national address from a remote location. Failing that, David Mabuza will take the reigns.

What can we expect from new lockdown restrictions?

It’s difficult to know what to expect from our next presidential lecture – but the Bureau for Economic Research reckon that a ‘light touch’ will be used for now. BER experts say that the apparent ‘mildness’ of Omicron is likely to help ease the pressure on hospitals, and therefore, updated lockdown restrictions can be kept to a premium.

  • The group believes that the only rules which need changing centre around large gatherings and indoor spaces:

“The latest indications are that the National Coronavirus Command Council will meet this week, implying that President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to address the nation sometime soon. We are now expecting the announcement of a possible tightening of local lockdown restrictions.”

“Incoming data showed that the more infectious Omicron, which is driving local infections, has so far led to fewer hospitalisations and fatalities in SA than during the early stages of the Delta-driven third wave. Therefore, we still expect any tightening of lockdown restrictions to largely focus on curbing the size of gatherings, especially indoors.”

BER statement