As the country battles a runaway Covid-19 infection rate, the president of the republic, Cyril Ramaphosa, was announced to be planning a meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to discuss the response of the government to this pandemic. The meeting, which is expected to be held on Thursday, the 24th of June, is meant to discuss whether or not to move the country to stricter lockdown in an attempt to reduce the infection rate of the third wave of the virus, which is now over 10 000 new cases per day in Gauteng province alone.
The council is said to be taking advice from a number of bodies, which include the South African Medical Association, the Gauteng Provincial Government, medical professionals, and the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19. All the above bodies are all said to be in favour of moving the country, or at least, Gauteng province, to as much as level 5 of lockdown. Speaking earlier in the week, President Ramaphosa had made indications that there may be a need to move the country to a stricter level of lockdown. Furthermore, the president also noted that even though the first lockdown in March 2020 was harder than in most other countries, it helped in a major way to bring infections down to manageable levels then.
Professor Koleka Mlisana, the co-chair of the ministerial advisory committee, speaking to the media, said that even though we may feel the need to tighten restrictions, it was also important to explore ways of increasing the capacity of hospitals in terms of beds, personnel as well as resources such as oxygen in order to be able to better respond to the increase in the number of cases. On the other hand, Professor Rudo Mathivha, who is also part of the advisory council and also working with the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, said that Gauteng was 1 000 beds short, and some patients were being treated on stretchers and it had become so bad that some patients even “expire” before a bed was obtained for them.
However, the Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura, in his budget speech that he presented on Thursday, said that despite the climbing numbers of infections, the province could not afford a level 5 lockdown. He said that a number of businesses were beginning to recover from the previous crippling lockdown. He added that if people were asked to stay at home, his government did not have the resources to support them while they were there.