[Don't ask me how this is even possible. COVID is a cold and cold and flu flourish in winter. December is mid-summer and very hot. Let's not even wonder how in hell's name for what freaking reason we'll be in a hard lockdown in December. Everything here is so utterly ridiculous. Among my friends and family … Well, life is the same it's always been. I have no clue why there is a panic (yet again). To be honest nor do I care. Everything I see around me is the same it always was. I don't see people dropping dead on the sidewalk and I haven't heard of deaths from COVID since winter – when quite a few people did die. It's a storm in a teacup, it's much ado about nothing. Jan]
Permitting large gatherings under the adjusted level 1 lockdown could result in the fourth wave of Covid-19 cases hitting South Africa earlier than anticipated, and the country being placed under hard lockdown during the December holidays.
This dire warning comes from several health and governance experts who recently spoke to The Sunday Times regarding the government’s decision to allow for significantly larger gatherings than previously permitted under lockdown regulations.
When lockdown level 1 was last implemented between February and May 2021, it only allowed for a maximum of 100 people indoors and 250 outdoors.
The latest adjusted level 1 lockdown regulations permit 750 people indoors and 2,000 outdoors.
While President Rampahosa claimed the decision was guided by science, critics have slammed it as a political move for greater mobilisation at campaign rallies before 1 November’s local elections.
The experts agreed that moving to lockdown level 1 was the right call given the decline in daily cases, but the relaxation on gatherings, in particular, was egregious.
Events with large congregations of people have been labelled as “super-spreaders” for their ability to expose numerous people to the virus during a short period and create a surge in cases as they dispersed to different locations.
Angelique Coetzee, South African Medical Association chair
Among the sceptical experts was South African Medical Association (Sama) chair Angelique Coetzee, who said she wanted to “see the science” that said 2,000 people in a rally would be safe.
“It doesn’t make scientific sense; it makes political sense. I think we are about to see in four weeks after elections what was the impact of this,” Coetzee said.
The move to level 1 lockdown comes despite vaccination rates in the country not reaching the required level to hit the government’s targets to bring the spread of the virus under control.
The health department aims to have 28 million people, 0r about 70%, of South Africa’s adult population vaccinated by the end of the year. Experts estimate this could save 20,000 lives.
As of Saturday, 2 October, just over 12.79 million people had received at least one dose of a vaccine, which means another 15.21 million new people have to get a jab to reach that target.
With 90 days remaining up to and including 31 December, that means at least 169,000 new people have to be vaccinated each day, including over weekends.
Currently, daily vaccinations are hovering between 150,000 and 200,000 on weekdays, but this includes second doses.
Jabs on Saturdays and Sundays have recently started to climb to just over 50,000, but this is still too low.
To address this, the president has announced a “Vooma Vaccination Weekends” campaign to drive improved rollout over weekends.
The first Vooma Vaccination Weekend started on Friday, 1 October, and will run until Sunday, 3 October 2021. The government aims to vaccinate half a million people over these three days.
Yesterday, the number of vaccines administered was 106,722, an impressive number for a Saturday.
Combined with Friday’s 198,246 vaccinations, the total for the weekend stood at 304,968.
That means just over 195,000 more vaccines would have to be administered on Sunday to hit the target of half a million, a feat which would be incredible given that most weekdays in recent times have seen fewer vaccinations.