News / Covid-19

Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
25 Nov 2021
2:45 pm

Another hard lockdown incoming? Phaahla says it’s ‘too early’ to say

Molefe Seeletsa

South Africa is currently on adjusted level 1 lockdown, which has eased restrictions on gatherings and people’s movements.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla. Picture: Gallo Images/Volksblad/Mlungisi Louw

Health Minister Joe Phaahla says Cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will meet this weekend, following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in South Africa.

B.1.1.529 variant

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed on Thursday that 22 positive cases of a new SARS-CoV-2 virus variant has been detected in the country, as well as in Botswana and Hong Kong.

Shortly after the announcement, Phaahla revealed during a media briefing that the new variant, known as the B.1.1.529, identified has been driving the surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, especially in Gauteng.

“Members of the public may have noticed Covid-19 cases have been rising [in the past week or so]. The cases started gradually, but over the last four or five days there has been more of an exponential rise, particularly in Gauteng,” he said.

On Wednesday, the NICD reported 1,275 new Covid-19 infections in the country.

ALSO READ: Covid-19: New B.1.1.529 variant becoming dominant in SA, says health minister

This is the highest number of Covid-19 infections that has been recorded since 6 October, just after the country exited the third wave.

Phaahla said that the spike in Covid-19 cases was initially thought to be due to the Delta variant, however, the emergence of the new variant “reinforces the fact that this invisible enemy we are dealing with is very unpredictable.”

The Minister further said it was given that South Africa would see case starting to rise rapidly in “a matter of days or weeks”.

He previously said he still hoped that more social activitites would be allowed, but the variant presents “a great challenge”.

Harder lockdown incoming?

Phaahla also confirmed that Cabinet and the NCCC will meet to discuss the implications of the new variant over the weekend.

He previously indicated that the Department of Health would advise government against imposing a harder lockdown.

The Minister, meanwhile, highlighted that it was “too early” to be making decisions on potential new lockdown restrictions.

“It is too early to really predict what’s going to be the line of action. The team of scientists will be studying and giving us information over the weekend we will be more empowered,” he said.

READ MORE: New Covid-19 variant ‘of real concern’ detected in South Africa

He noted, however, that with the experience of the last 21 months, it is easy to predict how the new variant will move.

The country is currently on adjusted level 1 lockdown, which has eased restrictions on gatherings and people’s movements.

Now, with the festive season approaching, social gatherings – including events – during this time may be potential super spreaders.

Up to 2,000 people are permitted at outdoor venues and 750 for indoor gatherings under level 1.