The government will not move the country to lockdown level 5, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said ahead of the long Easter weekend.
It has been a year since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. After 1,541,563 cases and 52,535 confirmed deaths, the country is wondering if the government will implement another lockdown.
Messages circulating on social media claim the President will have a “family meeting” to announce another lockdown.
What we do know is that the country will not move back to level 5, as confirmed by Mkhize in an interview with Newzroom Afrika on Friday.
“We have to try create a balance that will make people feel we’re not unnecessarily infringing on their rights to practise their religion but we also need to understand that we cannot say it’s going to be a free for all – for people to go out there and create super-spreader activities,” Mkhize said.
“Level 5 was one of the most difficult situations and no one wishes to see us go back to that kind of lockdown. We really hope we never get to that level. The restrictions will have to be balanced.”
The ministerial advisory committee (MAC) has reportedly advised the NCCC to move the country to Alert Level 2 lockdown ahead of the Easter break.
Mkhize said while the government had not yet made a decision about what kind of lockdown to implement, churches have been asked to cooperate fully.
“But members of the MAC said looking at the way the long weekend is likely to pan out, we’re likely to see much interprovincial travel, with large numbers of people gathering together for super-spreader activities,” said Mkhize.
As a result, the government is likely to announce a ban on some activities.
The minister said telling people to stop socialising during level 5 was one of the “most difficult things” the government had to do since the beginning of the pandemic.
“It was more difficult to be part of the discussions where we had to agree that there has to be a complete shut down – no movement of people, no visiting of friends, no travelling between city to city or province to province.
“The purpose of it was to flatten the curve and that meant expanding our health services. We were able to expand our health services by creating more hospital beds and field hospitals, bringing more oxygen and ventilators and staff. In that process we went out to screen our communities to determine which areas were high transmission – which areas were hot spots.
“But the difficult part was telling people that there was something wrong with going out and socialising,” he said.
He commended South Africans for adhering to Covid-19 regulations and cancelling events, while others had to cut down on the number of mourners attending funerals.
“When we look back, we need to salute all our fellow South Africans for rising to the occasion to face a very difficult period, working together and getting us to a point where we can today say there is hope moving forward.”