Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the whole country will move to Level 3 of the national lockdown following confusion that some areas would remain on Level 4.
Mkhize released a statement on Wednesday clarifying that the entire country would move to level 3 and those hotspot areas would receive greater intervention to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The minister’s clarification follows his presentation to Parliament’s National Council of Provinces on Tuesday where he presented a slide which implied that some parts of the country would remain under Level 4 because of the high levels of infections.
He said the slide presented was old and that the announcement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday, that the country would move on to Level 3, remains valid.
Mkhize said some areas had high infections, these included some of the countries big metros such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. He said these hotspots along with many others would be monitored and resources pushed towards them to try and decrease the spread. The efforts would be concentrated on cluster spreading of the virus which increases community transmission.
“As it stands, the government has immediately taken steps to intervene in areas that are regarded as hotspots by deploying experts and specialists who will implement measures to curb the spread. These areas also require heightened levels of tracing of contacts of positive patients, ensuring that those who are positive remain in quarantine/ isolation and those who cannot self-quarantine, are accommodated in quarantine facilities provided for by provinces.
“This will limit the risk of further infection to other members of the communities, including their families (community transmission). In some of these hotspots, cluster outbreaks have also been identified. This means, positive cases arising from people participating in the same activity within a specific area. These include factories, grocery shops, farms etc. Those areas also require a rapid response of screening, testing and the tracing of contacts,” the minister explained.
He said a constant assessment of hotspots will determine the next steps to be taken and whether further restrictions on different areas are needed.
“If the spread of the infection is not contained despite the above-mentioned interventions, the government will make a determination on whether to return that specific area, (i.e. metropolitan, district, sub-district, ward) to alert Level 4 or 5. This will be done rapidly and in an effort to contain and manage the spread, and also to ensure that our health facilities are not overwhelmed by the rapid rise of positive cases in that area.
“This, therefore, means that as the whole country moves to Level 3, there will be a constant assessment of each and every area and its rate of infection.”
“This raises the importance of social behaviour: members of the community can and must take it upon themselves to observe social distancing by keeping more than the 1-metre distance from the next person; constantly wash and/ or sanitise hands; wearing a face mask; avoid touching one’s face with unwashed hands, and clean surfaces we come into contact with.
“We also want to emphasise that staying at home remains key and for those employees who can work from home, we urge employers to promote and facilitate this new culture. For those employees who must still go to work, they must embrace the new way of life which will protect them, their families and their fellow workers,” the minister said.