As Gauteng’s Covid-19 cases spike, Johannesburg executive mayor, Geoff Makhubo, says hard lockdown will not be a solution, however, certain regulations should be looked at to curb the spread of the virus.
Makhubo was speaking in Marlboro during the unveiling of land which will be used to temporarily house residents from Covid-19 hotspots in Johannesburg.
“We are seeing a spike in numbers, in the last week we’ve had 3 000 additional infections in the province, a majority have been in Johannesburg.
Meanwhile, plans to relocate 1 600 Johannesburg residents in Covid-19 hotspots to safer areas are officially under way, with residents set to move in the next four months.
On Friday, Makhubo revealed the land which would be used to relocate residents from Wards 109 and 108 (made up of Marlboro, Eastgate, Kelvin, Wendywood, Morningside Manor and Alexandra).
“We realised… that some places, you can’t practice social distancing. As part of our intervention, we decided to identify some areas here in Marlboro, Zandspruit, Ivory Park [and] Soweto, where we will be relocating some communities,” he said.
“In four months, the first project will be on the ground and we will be moving people from Ward 109 and 108 into this programme.”
Makhubo added that residents would stay in the temporary location for three to five years.
“We call them temporary residential units (TRU), but temporary can be anything up to three years or so, while we look for permanent solutions. Remember the housing project will take up to four or five years so, for between three and five years, people will be here temporarily.
“The units will be habitable – there will be toilets, water and everything – so it will be a new township, so to speak,” he said.
“The infection rate is growing; the active cases are high, and we are worried about the capacity in our hospitals.
“But we think we have got enough beds, we’ve got enough quarantine sites that can withstand the pressure we will face in July and August,” he said.
While Johannesburg hospitals reach maximum capacity during the province’s peak, Makhubo said it was mainly alcohol-related accidents filling up the hospitals.
“What is happening in our hospitals… it’s other incidents other than Covid – it’s incidents of trauma, stabbings, car accidents which are increasing in our hospitals.
“Remember during the lockdown this was almost down to zero, now they are back and part of the cause is alcohol – it’s a big, big contributor,” he said.
Makhubo added that it was possible for alcohol restrictions to be revisited.
“The alcohol economy is like any other economy – the restrictions, the times it can be sold, the times that people are in the streets consuming alcohol – that can be looked at.
“The idea was to buy and drink at home, but people still drink [in public] and drive around and cause accidents on the road.”
However, Makhubo said he did not believe a hard lockdown was the solution.
Makhubo said: “We have to balance the economy – the capacity of the state to deliver when the economy is [under] distress – and saving lives. “We prefer saving lives first, but at the same time how do you balance this with the economy?”
He added that people were not practicing physical distancing or mask wearing – vital to curbing the spread of the virus.
“They don’t do the basics, and we think that with those basic being done and being adhered to we shouldn’t be seeing what we are seeing now,” Makhubo said.
“For me, we will have to balance the two and I don’t see a hard lockdown being a complete solution but some form of lockdown – localised, curfew at night – I think those will [be] solutions for what we are seeing today.”