We’re heading into the worst part of the third wave: Following confirmation from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the resurgence of COVID-19 is fully underway. South Africa is seeing daily case numbers push towards the 10 000-mark, as hospitalisations also climb – but will this ascent lead us back to Level 3 of lockdown?

Level 3 lockdown looms for South Africa

The government has been extremely clear about its position on this: There’s no money left in the coffers to rollout programmes like the R350 grant, or an extended UIF/TERS scheme. Therefore, plunging the country into a ‘hard lockdown’ isn’t an option. But with cases soaring and infections spreading fast, action is likely to be taken.

An adjusted Level 3 programme may not be out of the question – indeed, experts who spoke with News24 on Friday see this as a the next logical step – and it is likely to act as the halfway house between the toughest restrictions the country has to offer, and the relative freedoms we enjoyed during Alert Level 1.

We also know that Level 3 does a decent job when it comes to getting the infection rates down. During the second wave in summer, South Africa didn’t drop into Levels 4 or 5, and the surge of COVID-19 peaked and decreased within a matter of weeks. However, the changing of the seasons this time around could complicate matters in Mzansi.

Calls for tougher restrictions already in full flow

We’re already without power for large parts of the day, and just yesterday, we received a warning about our nationally constrained water supply. A winter of discontent – mixed with a third wave that could also be fuelled by new variants – is likely to make the next few weeks extremely difficult for President Ramaphosa and his advisors to manage.

There are ALREADY calls for Cyril to get tough, and follow-up from the announcement he made on Sunday 30 May. SA has been in Level 2 restrictions for the best part of 12 days, and its impact seems to be minimal. We reported last week that the South African Medical Association (SAMA) wants to see stricter rules for both curfews AND gatherings.

“We’d like to see a longer, stricter weekend curfew. If you look at the curfew during the week, we are very happy about it. The problem, however, is people tend to party and tend to come together over weekends.”

“Although the move to restrict gatherings to 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors is welcome, it does not go far enough, and stricter measures must be put in place – especially for indoor venues.” SAMA statement

What will change at Level 3?

In a report carried by BusinessTech, the Ministerial Advisory Committee is also weighing up the possibility of inter-provincial travel bans – and tougher restrictions for restaurants. Meanwhile, we’ve also been told that schools could be seriously affected by the rising tide of this daunting third wave.

Education Minister Angie Motshekga has previously dug her heels in, claiming that there can be no more disruption to the school calendar. The second term of the year is due to end in four weeks, on 9 July 2021 – and despite the minister’s objections, there’s every chance that the president and the MAC will make the final decision on classroom shutdowns.

As cases rise in a country with low vaccine coverage, the need for tougher lockdown measures becomes greater. With South Africa at Level 2, and infections skyrocketing, a transition into Level 3 looks inevitable, rather than speculative.

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Presh JM Reporter

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