There is an ongoing debate on whether and how quickly President Cyril Ramaphosa must completely ease the lockdown, with some businesses remaining closed, while some have announced a permanent shutdown.
The debates are happening as the country’s number of Covid-19 cases rise daily, with the most recent number sitting at 10,015 cases and 194 deaths.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has argued that the lockdown was never meant to ultimately slow down the epidemic, but to give the country time to prepare for the effects of the virus.
Steenhuisen argued last week: “We weren’t trying to stop all Covid infections. We weren’t trying to kill the virus. In our efforts to fight off a very real threat, we have replaced it with an even bigger threat of our own making.
“The real tragedy playing out here is no longer the coronavirus, but the lockdown itself. Because this lockdown is going to cost many more lives than it can possibly save.
“We have to end the lockdown crisis, and we have to do it now. There is very little for us to gain and almost everything to lose by keeping people at home and keeping businesses shut any longer.
“The only reason we entered into the lockdown was to buy some time. We were simply giving our hospitals time to prepare. To give our healthcare workers the best possible chance of dealing with the inevitable wave of infections when it finally hit us.”
South Africa has issued lockdown alert guidelines which have been outlined in five levels, with the country currently on level 4.
While Ramaphosa has been commended for slowly reopening the economy, some have called on him to act faster to ease the lockdown and allow people to go back to work.
To help countries decide on whether they should stay in lockdown, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has published six key considerations for the gradual easing of any lockdown.
The organisation has urged countries to clearly communicate their plans with citizens to build trust and ensure they observe said restrictions.
“Challenges and circumstances vary from country to country and there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” it said.
These are the criteria governments should use when easing the lockdown, as advised by the WHO:
1. Covid-19 transmission must be controlled to a level of sporadic cases and clusters of cases, all from known contacts or importations and the incidence of new cases should be maintained at a level that the health system can manage, with substantial clinical care capacity in reserve.
2. Sufficient health system and public health capacities must be in place to enable the major shift from detecting and treating mainly serious cases to detecting and isolating all cases, irrespective of severity and origin. Suspected cases should have test results within 24 hours of identification and sampling.
3. Outbreak risks in high-vulnerability settings should be minimised, which requires all major drivers and/or amplifiers of Covid-19 transmission to have been identified, with appropriate measures in place to minimise the risk of new outbreaks and of nosocomial transmission.
4. Workplace preventive measures must established to reduce risk, including the appropriate directives and capacities to promote and enable standard Covid-19 prevention measures in terms of physical distancing, hand washing, respiratory etiquette and, potentially, temperature monitoring.
5. Risk of imported cases should be managed through an analysis of the likely origin and routes of importations, and measures would be in place to rapidly detect and manage suspected cases among travellers (including the capacity to quarantine individuals arriving from areas with community transmission).
6. Communities are fully engaged and understand that the transition entails a major shift, from detecting and treating only serious cases to detecting and isolating all cases, that behavioural prevention measures must be maintained, and that all individuals have key roles in enabling and in some cases implementing new control measures.
(Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde)