Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize hints at easing of lockdown restrictions

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Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says that his team is preparing to make recommendations to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) around the easing of lockdown restrictions in South Africa.

Mkhize told the SABC that the government has recorded a downward trend in coronavirus cases across all of South Africa’s provinces, and that it will be presenting these findings to president Cyril Ramaphosa this week.

“We are preparing submissions. We will need to make certain restrictions around easing restrictions and the NCCC will have to take into account a lot of issues.

“Out of that, the president will provide guidance around what we are able to do.”

Mkhize added that the president’s guidance will be based on scientific evidence, trends in coronavirus cases, as well as presentations from a variety of sectors.

“I would say that if we really want to see things changing and restrictions being eased off , we must really focus on masks, hand sanitisers and washing hands.

“If we do so, I think we will be able to get good news.”

With the national state of disaster set to end this week – on 15 August – Mkhize said that it was the recommendation of the Department of Health to extend it further.

“We will see how the decisions are made, but we feel it is too early (to end the state of disaster).

Second wave

While South Africa has reported a weekly decline in coronavirus cases, Mkhize cautioned that the country was not out of the woods yet, and that there was still existing pressure in some provinces.

He added that it was not possible to predict whether the country will see another peak in coronavirus cases, but it was possible to look at the data retrospectively see whether the country is over a peak.

“We have passed an inflection point. This is the point at which the upward trend of the graph of newer infections is trending downwards and there are fewer positive cases.

“That you can predict looking backwards and that’s what all our of our analysts are doing. That’s why we keep saying we want to be very careful over the next two to three weeks so that we can see it’s not just a limited decrease.”

“If after two to three weeks we see that the trends continue to hold then we are happy.”

He cited the Western Cape, and to a lesser extent the Eastern Cape, where their trends show a plateau and where the reported cases are lower.

However, he cautioned that the cases are not as low as the government wants and that it is not possible to predict a subsequent upsurge.

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