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Could second wave cause stricter lockdown restrictions to be implemented before Christmas?

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has invited district municipalities and provincial governments to make submissions for their plans to curtail the spread of the coronavirus during the festive season.

File image. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

Johannesburg – Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has invited district municipalities and provincial governments to make submissions for their plans to curtail the spread of the coronavirus during the festive season.

On Wednesday night, Mkhize declared that the country had entered a second wave after new infections reached more than 6 000 daily infections for the first time since mid-August.

He attributed the spread to the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The four provinces accounted for a cumulative 94% of new infections.

In terms of the virus, by age, the 14 to 19 and 35 to 39 age category had the most new infections with 10%, followed by the 45 to 49, 30 to 34 and 25 to 29, who had 9% of the new infections.

People aged from 40 to 44 and from 20 to 24 accounted for 8% of the new infections.

Mkhize said the National Coronavirus Command Council and the Cabinet would consider submissions from municipalities and the provinces before President Cyril Ramaphosa made an announcement on whether stricter restrictions – possibly similar to those instituted in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan, would be extended to more areas across the country.

Asked if stricter lockdown restrictions would be implemented before Christmas, Mkhize said: “I think we should take all the plans and the proposals from the district municipalities and provincial governments, table them before the NCCC and Cabinet and let the decisions be taken at that level.

He said the Cabinet would also consider additional measures which would be up for discussion, including the views from health workers and religious and traditional leaders.

“Without being able to know what level of restrictions, I think it is important for us to say there has to be some way of us encouraging more responsible behaviour, a way that we can protect South Africans from conduct that is showing a lot of complacency.

“We need to focus on those containment measures that we have always preached about – the use of masks, social distancing and sanitizing and so on.”

Mkhize said they had requested proposals from municipalities and provincial governments to adopt a festive season plan for the virus.

He called on people to be responsible and exercise restraint during the festive season period.

“Yes, the festive season is a time to enjoy, but we must enjoy it with restraint and not to the detriment of other South Africans who may even lose their lives; that is not a responsible way to enjoy ourselves.

“The NCCC will deliberate and know what needs to be done when the president addresses us in due course.”

Mkhize said that as the country entered the second wave, people could not afford to have complacent attitudes towards the coronavirus and called on people to continue wearing masks, social distancing and hand sanitising.

“I cannot say that the change of behaviour was never implemented. In the first wave, we attributed some of the decline in numbers on the fact that people had started using masks.

“If you compare with what had happened at the beginning of the pandemic in March to the middle of the year, there was quite a lot of mask wearing and people were very loyal.

“(The) majority did it and that helped, and there was a huge behavioural change. We need to emphasise the need for behavioural change and strengthen behavioural change, because we cannot afford to have Covid fatigue,” said Mkhize.

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