Health Minister Zweli Mkhize may have given South Africans a glimmer of real optimism on Monday 7 September after saying that considering the recent drop in reported cases of COVID-19 in the country, a move to Level 1 of the nationwide lockdown should be nearby.
He maintained that with optimism comes the need to remain responsible, and said that while cases have decreased significantly, we are not yet over the worst of the pandemic.
No COVID-19 case spike between Levels 3 and 2
Mkhize said during a briefing to reporters on Monday that the move from Level 3 to Level 2 of the lockdown had produced pleasantly surprising results.
“We never actually knew what to expect, and the reality is that we can now safely say we are over the surge,” he said. “There were days we used have 11 000 people who were positive and now today we see numbers around 2 000.”
On Monday evening, the lowest reported cases were announced since May, with 845 people having tested positive for COVID-19. This means that there is now an accumulative total of 638 517 cases that have been reported since March.
Mkhize said that this good news must be accompanied by a sense of caution.
“We are not over the worst yet. We are worried about what may happen in terms of a resurgence in the country,” he said.
“It would have been logical that from level 3 to level 2, there would have been an increase in numbers; it didn’t happen. We don’t want to make conclusions, because we have seen what happened in other countries where there was a lull for a few weeks before a resurgence,” he said.
Level 1: ‘The sooner the better’
Mkhize said that moving to Level 1 of the lockdown would be in the best interests of South Africa’s flailing economy, and said that should case reports remain consistently low, then the move can be expected sooner rather than later.
“The sooner we can get to Level 1 the better. The sooner we have a normal economy the better. It is better for the country,” he said. “We are hoping South Africans will understand that to get there, we have to make sure we are just as cautious in level two, so that there is no resurgence.”
“We are at a point where our numbers are steadily coming down, hospitalisation numbers have reduced, and people in ICUs are reducing.”
The proposed move to Level 1 is cause for optimism, he said.
“We must be very optimistic, but still very cautious. We are not seeing the end of the disease yet,” he said.
SA ‘passed the surge’
The worst stage of the pandemic occurred in June and July, Mkhize said.
“We have passed the wave. For about three weeks now, we have been on a steady decline. We are not seeing any new spikes or surges. We are really hoping we don’t get a second surge,” he said.
“We have seen other countries that celebrated a reduction of numbers, went to a point where they had zero patients testing positive, and then suddenly it flared up again.”
“We must keep our precautions and all containment measures must stay in place.”
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