The national coronavirus command council (NCCC) on Tuesday explained its decision to move the entire country to adjusted alert level four until 11 July, despite Gauteng bearing the brunt of the third wave of Covid-19 infections.
At a media briefing, the council said it believed that although the infection rate in Gauteng was much worse than other provinces, the additional restrictions had been enforced to ensure that the spread of Covid-19 was contained.
The ministers making up the NCCC detailed the new regulations in their respective departments and offered clarity on the restrictions.
Using an analogy, Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that a fire had broken out in Gauteng while other provinces were dealing with small flames that needed to be extinguished before further damage was caused to the country.
Of the 12 222 new cases of Covid-19 recorded on 28 June, Gauteng contributed 8 408 new cases. The province currently has more than 80 000 active cases.
Dlamini-Zuma acknowledged that the government’s priority was to save livelihoods while saving lives, which was why most businesses were allowed to remain open.
The NCCC confirmed that Gauteng was currently being dominated by the Delta variant of the virus.
However, acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the country could not ignore the Alpha and Beta variants, which were still also infecting citizens.
Kubayi-Ngubane also responded to public comments claiming that the government had made a mistake by getting rid of the AstraZeneca vaccine, now that the Delta variant is prevalent in South Africa.
“The Delta variant is prevalent, especially in Gauteng, but that doesn’t mean that it has replaced the Beta variant. The Delta, Alpha and Beta variants all still remain in the country and the AstraZeneca vaccine did not show efficacy against the Beta variant, which is still here, so the right decision was made,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said that there was no reason to panic because there were “more than enough” oxygen supplies and hospitals had detailed plans to ensure patients received beds.
She also announced that vaccinations for members of the South African Police Service (Saps) and the South African National Defence Force would begin by 5 July.
Police Minister Bheki Cele welcomed the announcement. He said that Saps would be clamping down on restrictions in the next two weeks and “it will not be business as usual”.
Saps has charged 465 098 people since 27 March last year — the first day of the country’s official hard lockdown — for contravening regulations. Since 16 June this year, amid the level-three lockdown, 7 439 people have been arrested.
Cele insisted that police were not aiming to criminalise masses of people. If regulations were not adhered to, he said, Saps had a duty to act.
Alcohol has again been banned until 11 July in the latest level-four lockdown, and Cele offered a stern warning to any liquor traders who were thinking of defying the law.
“I am glad that those who called for liquor traders to defy have now reversed their call. It will be bad if you defy. You might find your stock being taken, yourself in prison and your licence getting taken away, and you will find that after 14 days, you are no longer a trader,” Cele said.
The transport of alcohol has also been banned unless it is for industrial use, such as for products like disinfectants and hand sanitisers.
Local government elections
With the by-elections being called off this week because of the third wave of Covid-19, the uncertainty around the local government elections was also discussed at the briefing.
The local government elections are set to take place on 27 October, but Dlamini-Zuma danced around the question of whether the third wave would delay the polls.
She said that political parties would be limited to digital campaigns for the next two weeks at least, and that, when the regulations were reviewed, parties would then have more direction.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa has appointed former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke to review whether the local government elections should go ahead or possibly be postponed given the challenges the country is facing because of Covid-19.