Now is not the time for stricter lockdown rules

Johannesburg- Now that the dust has settled around the local government elections, South Africans can once again focus on Covid-19.

Yes, the picture has not changed much on this front.

The vaccination rate is nowhere near the target number.

So grave is the situation, we have an adequate supply of the vaccine, but not enough willingness to vaccinate.

After the euphoria of the past few weeks, which has seen political parties criss-cross the country, convening mass gatherings of thousands of unmasked and not socially distanced voters, we have to deal with the aftermath of our recklessness.

The number of new Covid-19 cases is on the rise. In the past two days, South Africa has recorded more than 2 000 new cases. On Friday, the country logged 2 828 new cases, the highest single-day infection rate since August.

Add to that the fact that a new strain of the virus has been detected, which has caused panic around the world,  with countries such as the UK not wasting time to place South Africa back on the notorious red list.

As if this were not enough, the government has already started rolling out booster Covid-19 jabs to health workers as part of the Sisonke study – and the conspiracy theorists are in high drive, spreading unproven theories about the efficacy of the vaccine against the new variant.

And today, as we await the family meeting, we are anxious about the measures that President Cyril Ramaphosa will take to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, in light of the new variant, the rising number of infections and the low vaccination rate.

I must caution Ramaphosa to think deeply before imposing stricter lockdown measures to deal with the spread of Covid-19. The last thing South Africa needs is for South Africans to blatantly defy stricter lockdown regulations.

The message to South Africans should be very clear: Covid-19 is in our hands, and our very actions influence the spread of the virus.

So, Ramaphosa, instead of wanting to penalise people and businesses – because this is how people now view the different lockdowns since all Covid-19 regulations were disregarded when political parties were campaigning – must encourage people to vaccinate, social distance and wear masks.

At this point, it will be detrimental for South Africa, which is regarded as the cradle for Covid-19 mutations and the home-ground of anti-vaxxers, to impose further lockdown restrictions that will be openly disregarded. Rather keep the status quo but double up on encouraging vaccinations, social distancing and the wearing of masks.

Now, it is the time to manage perceptions – unless Ramaphosa wants to spend the festive season answering the question “where was Covid-19 when you were electioneering?”

To read more political news and views from this week’s paper, click here. 

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