Photo: GCIS / Flickr
Photo: GCIS / Flickr
On Sunday evening, President Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would move down to Level 2 of lockdown, opening up the economy further and shortening curfew to allow businesses more time to operate. Things are looking positive for Mzansi at the minute – so does this mean that a possible shift to Level 1 has been accelerated?
Under 4 000 new cases were recorded on Sunday evening. Meanwhile, Ramaphosa confirmed that the country is now vaccinating ‘one million people every four to five days’. Indeed, our vaccination rates are a cause for celebration…
Nearly 27% of all South Africans have been jabbed, and that number rises to 35% in the Western Cape, 31% in the Eastern Cape, and 30% in Limpopo. Two more weeks of shots being administered at this pace will see upwards of three million more South Africans get immunised – and that could have a major say in what happens next.
The next review of lockdown will be in 13 days’ time, on Sunday 26 September. If the trend of falling COVID cases on a national scale continues, switching to Level 1 restrictions will be a distinct possibility for SA.
“The decline in new COVID-19 cases in all the major provinces has driven the country-wide total lower, which allowed for a further relaxation of the lockdown restrictions. Depending on the state of the pandemic, these measures will be reviewed in two weeks.”BER statement
What is more, political parties across the Parliamentary spectrum will be gagging to rally as much support as they can ahead of the Municipal Elections on Monday 1 November. Voting season is here, and those contesting for the public’s approval – including the ANC – will want to reach the maximum amount of people with their campaigns.
Therefore, moving to Level 1 will allow larger legal gatherings, and grant a higher degree of freedom to politicians who are desperate to canvass the nation. This could be a major factor in the fortnightly lockdown review.
Rapid progression to Level 1 isn’t all that unlikely, but there are some stumbling blocks to consider. For example, what happens with KZN? The province is an outlier in terms of active cases, with over 47 000 locals currently COVID-positive. For context, the next highest number of active coronavirus cases is in Free State, with roughly 16 000 people affected.
Both the Western Cape and Eastern Cape also have over 10 000 active cases each, though infection rates seem to be slowing here. Should these regions see a sustained decline, it could very well help enable a shift to Level 1.
There are also genuine fears that a fourth wave will hit our shores before the end of the year. How bad that will be, however, remains to be seen. The government is convinced it will have 70% of all adults jabbed by December 2021 – which is when another virus resurgence is expected. This has implications for our next lockdown review.
Ramaphosa may see the next few weeks as an opportunity to open up the country as much as he can, before making the necessary adjustments to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, it’s possible that this next wave – if not driven by a new, more transmissible variant – will be less deadly than the previous three, due to the impact of the vaccines.
If more than two-thirds of adults are immunised against the disease, it is predicted that this will be enough to ease pressure on hospitals and allow the country to run as normal. Getting to that total still requires a major push, however, and the next month or so is critical for getting needles into arms – whether that’s at Level 1, 2, or 3 of lockdown…