Acting mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, Thsonono Buyeye says that the city will welcome tighter restrictions, as it continues to fight against the spread of Covid-19 amid the virus’s resurgence in the province.

The Eastern Cape metro area is seen as a hotspot. Health minister Zweli Mkhize has expressed his concern over the rising daily infections in the province. “The Eastern Cape on a daily basis becomes responsible for between 50% and 55% of new positive cases recorded,” he said.

“All our indications on the ground are that the number of positive people has increased — particularly in Nelson Mandela Bay, the number of people who are dying is noted and the number of people who are positive.”

Buyeye said that authorities have done everything they can to educate residents about the seriousness of the situation in the province, but the government was still receiving ” videos and pictures of irresponsible social gatherings of young people having parties”.

“While social gatherings remain our major problem, we have not stopped enforcing the law in churches and funerals as those can be super spreaders too. We are urging our residents to stop the spread of the virus, no one else is causing this problem but us. People are dying almost every day and it is in our hands, we could just this once sacrifice everything we are used for the sake of saving people’s lives,” Buyeye said.

As a result of the surge, the metro’s Disaster Management chairperson Shane Brown said stricter regulations can not be avoided, as people move around during the festive season and the city is one of the destinations of choice.

“The more cases we see in other areas, the more there is a need for stricter regulations. Private hospitals have reached maximum capacity for Covid-19 treatment and while the public hospitals and the field hospital have capacity, there is not enough staff to treat patients due to the same virus and other work related challenges,” he said.

“Residents need to avoid these large gatherings all together in all their different forms. Currently the regulations allow for 200 people to gather in one church if the building has a capacity of 400. But with the reality we faced with, we urge residents to not be part of such large gatherings as this increases their chances of contracting the virus and spreading it to those who did not even attend such gatherings.”

The city has submitted inputs to the minister of health and other stakeholders, regarding the call for localised restrictions.

“Everyone is aware of the situation. If we don’t curb the infections in the City, the virus will spread uncontrollably across the country and we do not want that,” Buyeye said.

Western Cape

The Western Cape government has also made submissions to the national Department of Health regarding the growing surge within the province, however, premier Alan Winde says the province’s approach is to avoid lockdown.

“I must reiterate that the main priority right now is to prevent a lockdown – that would devastate our economy. The best and quickest way to do (stop the surge) is through individuals, businesses and civil society playing their part by changing their behaviour,” he said.

Winde previously suggested that a ‘blunt instrument’ approach of using a mini-lockdown was under consideration, but that this would be a last resort option, and not as severe has moving entire regions back into a full lockdown.

“What is happening in other parts of the world, such as Australia and Singapore, is what they call a circuit breaker. The easiest way to explain it would be a mini-lockdown,” he said.

This involves putting certain regulations in a municipality or district for six days: no weddings, no funerals, no superspreader events, no permits issued.

Winde said that at this stage, no decision has been taken on localised restrictions, and the province is still seeking legal advice on what is possible, given that disaster restrictions are imposed by national government, and not by provinces.

“We will communicate our plan of action at this week’s Digital Press Conference, held on Thursday,” he said.

“We need to ensure every person wears a mask. We must avoid crowds and non-essential gatherings. And we must ensure we do not have close contact with others. If we follow these protocols, we can make a major dent in this resurgence. This should be every citizen’s priority right now.”

Other provinces

As of 30 November, there have been 2,302 new cases in South Africa, taking the total reported to 790,004.

Deaths have reached 21,535 (a daily increase of 58), while recoveries have climbed to 731,242, leaving the country with a balance of 37,227 active cases.

Across all provinces, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape currently have the most active cases – with KwaZulu Natal and the Free State also being flagged for a high number of people currently infected.

KwaZulu Natal premier Sihle Zikalala said that the province is ‘concerned’ about being ranked as the province with the third most active cases, but said that the ‘resurgence’ threshold had not yet been reached in the province.

“We are extremely concerned about the increase in the number of new Covid-19 cases in the province over the past four weeks,” he said. “Over the past week, the figures have jumped substantially, with the number of new cases increasing by 30%.”

“The province is monitoring resurgence indicators very closely, and has not reached the resurgence threshold – although in the past week the number of cases have been fluctuating. These indicators are monitored daily; and if the resurgence indicators are triggered, the Provincial Resurgence Plan will be implemented,” he said.

Highest rate of Covid-19 infections as a percentage:

  • Gauteng – 29.7%
  • Western Cape – 16.8%
  • Eastern Cape: – 16.2%
  • KwaZulu-Natal – 16.2%

Read: These are the Covid-19 hotspots in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth – and the restrictions being considered