Tshwane was among the coronavirus hot spots singled out by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation last night; he said the areas would see intensive healthcare interventions.
The other metros are Cape Town, Joburg, eThekwini, Ekurhuleni, Nelson Mandela Bay, and Buffalo City. The hot spots also include West Coast, Overberg, and Cape Winelands district municipalities in the Western Cape, Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape, and iLembe district in KwaZulu-Natal.
In announcing that the country would move to level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown on June 1, Ramaphosa said the hot spots would be dealt with using a “differentiated approach”.
A full-time team of experienced personnel which included epidemiologists, nurses, family practitioners, and support staff would be assigned to each hot spot. These would be supported by Cuban experts and linked to testing services, isolation facilities, quarantine facilities, treatment, hospital beds, and contact tracing.
“Should it be necessary, any part of the country could be returned to alert levels 4 or 5 if the spread of infection is not contained despite our interventions and there is a risk of our health facilities being overwhelmed. In time, however, through our efforts, it will be possible to place areas where infections are low on levels 2 or 1.”
Ramaphosa said these hot spots could be moved back to alert level 4 or 5 at any time if there was a need.
He said moving to level 3 would entail the reopening of most of the economy and require most public servants to return to work. The nationwide night-time curfew would be lifted.
He said they had known all along that the lockdown would only delay the spread of the virus, but would not be able to stop it. “Until there is a vaccine available to all, the coronavirus will continue to spread in our population.
“This means we must get used to living with the coronavirus for some time. There is a massive global effort to develop a vaccine, of which South Africa is part. We have argued that should a vaccine be developed anywhere in the world it should be made freely and equitably available to citizens of all countries.”
Ramaphosa said that as scientists had predicted, infections in the country had started to rise sharply. “One-third of the cumulative confirmed cases were recorded in the past week alone. We should expect these numbers to rise further and even faster.”
He said following consultation the Cabinet had determined that the alert level for the whole country be lowered from level 4 to level 3 with effect from June 1. “The implementation of alert level 3 from the beginning of June will involve the return to operation of most sectors of the economy, subject to observance of strict health protocols and physical distancing rules.”
He said the priority was to reduce the opportunities for the transmission of the virus and create a safe environment for everyone. “We are therefore asking that those who do not need to go to work or to an educational institution continue to stay at home. People will also be able to leave their homes to buy goods or obtain services including medical care. People will also be able to exercise at any time during the day, provided this is not done in groups. The curfew on the movement of people will be lifted.”
Alcohol may be sold for home consumption only under strict conditions, on specified days, and for limited hours, while the sale of tobacco products will remain prohibited on alert level 3 due to the health risks associated with smoking.
All gatherings will remain prohibited, except for funerals with no more than 50 people or meetings in the workplace for work purposes.
Wholesale and retail trade will be fully opened, including stores, spaza shops, and informal traders. E-commerce will remain open. However, to maintain physical distancing, restaurants, bars, and taverns stay closed, except for delivery or collection of food.
Accommodation and domestic air travel, except for business travel, will be phased in on dates to be announced. Personal care services, including hairdressing and beauty services will remain closed. “We have held discussions with the tourism, hotel and restaurant industry. They have several proposals, regarding measures they intend to put in place when their sectors are opened. We are giving consideration to the proposals.”