Minister Zweli Mkhize has rubbished rumours that SA will go back to level 5 lockdown. He has, however, called on South Africans to change their behaviour ahead of the upcoming Easter weekend.
DURBAN – On this day a year ago, South Africa went into a hard lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. At the time, the country had fewer than 1 000 cases. Today, more than 1.5million people have tested positive for Covid-19, with 52 535 succumbing to Covid-related illnesses.
Looking back on the year, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize praised South Africans for their perseverance.
Mkhize also rubbished fake news doing the rounds, claiming that South Africa will go back to lockdown level 5. He said people need to understand that there is a long weekend coming and they cannot attend large parties.
“It’s not about government placing restrictions, it’s about checking our behaviour and how we can prevent the spread,” Mkhize said.
Speaking to Newzroom Afrika this morning, Mkhize said it has been a difficult and painful year.
“But I think when we look back, we need to salute fellow South Africans for rising to the occasion to face a very difficult period. Everyone worked together to get us to a point where we can say there hope as we move forward,” Mkhize said.
He said it was difficult to be a part of discussions regarding a complete shutdown.
“The purpose of the lockdown was the flatten the curve so we could expand our health services. Our models showed us that if the numbers increased rapidly and people needed to be admitted to hospital, that our hospitals would not cope and we would lose more people,” he said.
The minister said the lockdown helped government expand hospital capacity.
“We were able to increase the number of beds, set up field hospitals, acquire ventilators and oxygen supplies. In this process, we were able to go into communities and screen people to determine hot spots.“
He said the challenge was telling people that they were not allowed to go out and socialise with others.
Commenting on the coming Easter weekend and the possibility of large gatherings, Mkhize said churches and other religious bodies have asked government to lift restrictions, however the Ministerial Advisory Committee has recommended an increase in restrictions to prevent super-spreader events.
He said government is still in talks with various stakeholders to find a way of curbing the spread of the coronavirus without infringing on the rights of communities.
He added that government was relying on South Africans to safeguard themselves.
“We need to show that we have learnt from the hard lockdown. We have to rely on South Africans through their own conduct to limit the numbers. When we place limitations, it’s because we don’t want to go back to level 5 due to the impact that it had on the economy. We cannot go to back to level 5. The restrictions have to be balanced,” Mkhize said.