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Concern that Sol will be stuck on Level 4

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Hot-spot areas with high infection rates will remain under Level 4.

WHILE calls have been made for the Northern Cape, which is the only province not to have recorded a Covid-19-related death, to be moved to a Level 3 lockdown, concern has been raised that the Sol Plaatje Municipality could remain on Level 4.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation on Wednesday night that the government was preparing for a further easing of the lockdown and a gradual opening of the economy, from the current Level 4 lockdown.

“We will immediately begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on alert Level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on Level 4. We will make further announcements after the completion of the consultations,” said the president.

Hot-spot areas with high infection rates will remain under Level 4.

“I will repeat what I have said before, if we lift the lockdown too abruptly and too quickly, we risk a rapid and unmanageable surge in infections.”

Ramaphosa said areas of the country might be designated at different alert levels depending on the rate of infections – and further announcements would be made.

“This would be done according to the rate of infection in an area and the state of readiness and the capacity of its health facilities to cope with treating infected people.”

Ramaphosa said the infections are mostly concentrated in a few metropolitan municipalities and districts in the country.

According to the latest figures released by the Department of Health, the Northern Cape has 30 people who have tested positive for Covid-19, of which 17 have recovered.

In a statement on its Facebook Page, the Northern Cape Department of Health indicated that 30 people was equivalent to 24 positive people for every one million population. It added that while this compares favourably with Gauteng (133 per million), KwaZulu-Natal (123 per million) and Free State (47 per million), the Province had more positive people per million than Mpumalanga (14 per million), North West (13 per million) and Limpopo (9 per million).

Twenty-two of the 30 positive cases are concentrated in the Frances Baard District, with 11 of these in the Sol Plaatje Municipality. Currently there are 10 active cases in the Kimberley area.

The Northern Cape MEC for Health, Mase Manopole, said in a radio interview this week that a total of 454 contacts have been identified from the 30 positive cases. “Only the first two cases had a large number of contacts. Since then those who tested positive had less contacts, with the numbers ranging from one or two to the highest, which was 115.”

She added that all the contacts, even in the latest case, had been contacted.

This follows criticism from opposition parties, especially the DA, that the department has not done enough Covid-19 testing to present a true picture of the number of positive cases in the Province.

Questions have meanwhile been raised whether the lockdown will be lowered from Level 4 to Level 3 in the Sol Plaatje Municipality, which has become a potential hot spot in the Province.

Manopole confirmed during the interview that with the number of cases in the Province increasing, the department would have to start moving from testing only those with the potential of having the virus, to more testing in hot-spot areas.

“Because Kimberley is a large municipality, the government might feel that while the smaller towns, where the number of cases are almost non-existent, can be moved to a Level 3, Kimberley should remain at a Level 4 initially,” a member of the public said yesterday. “It is likely that we will have a scenario where the larger towns, like Kimberley and maybe even Upington, will be kept under a stricter lockdown for a longer period. In fact, in the rest of the Northern Cape the government can lift the lockdown immediately because there are so few cases.”

Several calls have been made for the lockdown to be lifted sooner rather than later and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) indicated yesterday that it would be making an urgent court application to end the “draconian” lockdown regulations.

FF+ leader Dr Pieter Groenewald said yesterday that while the president had described the lockdown as being a success, the continued lockdown regulations were “unconstitutional”.

“Therefore we will approach the court on an urgent basis to declare the draconian lockdown regulations as unconstitutional. The regulations in some instances are ridiculous.”

He stated that the government had an obligation to provide reasons and detailed information to provide the basis for the further extension of the lockdown restrictions.

“Government is misusing the National Disaster Act to avoid accountability towards Parliament. In practice, we are in a state of emergency. The Constitution determines that the government must get approval from Parliament before implementing the regulations.”

Groenwald added that the continued regulations were not properly considered.

“The need to prevent the loss of life at the moment is not balanced with the right to work, earn an income and circumvent hunger.”

The Congress of the People (Cope) has gone as far as urging the Northern Cape premier to ease the Covid-19 alert level from Level 4 to Level 2.

“This will have an immediate positive economic effect on the most vulnerable unemployed people and communities,” Cope spokesperson Chris Liebenberg said.

“It is a well-known fact that the severe drought already negatively impacted on the number of job opportunities. The culminating effect of the drought and Covid-19, as well as the existing high unemployed figure of between 29%-36% in all the regions, has now become a humanitarian crisis.

“In the rural areas where workers live, they are mostly dependent on the agricultural sector to earn a dignified living. Although the food parcel support is welcomed, it couldn’t reach all these workers or communities resulting in a volatile situation where thousands of people are without food.

“Covid-19 infections are still low, with no signs of possible increases in the rural areas. Therefore the Congress of the People Northern Cape, is of the opinion that this is now the time for responsible and proactive changes of the alert level.”