COVID-19 quick insights from 23 April 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa announces a phased easing of lockdown restrictions and the Western Cape surpasses Gauteng as the new epicentre of the coronavirus as new national infections increase to 3,953 and the death toll hits 75.

© erika8213/123rf.com

CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa announces a phased easing of lockdown restrictions, while the Western Cape surpasses Gauteng as the new epicentre of the coronavirus as new national infections increase to 3,953 and the death toll is at 75.

DAY 28 OF LOCKDOWN

BY THE NUMBERS

• The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the virus reached our shores now stands at 3,953.

• 200 additional cases confirmed in the Western Cape – making it the epicentre of infections by number.

• 10 additional deaths recorded, bringing the total to 75. The Western Cape now also has the highest number of recorded deaths due to COVID-19.

• Notably, Thursday marked the highest daily increase of tests performed at 9,796 bringing the total number of patients tested to well over 145,000. We’re still a long way off the promised 30,000 tests a day – but we are climbing.

• More than 3.6 million people have been screened countrywide and more than 24,000 have been referred for testing.

FREEDOM AWAITS... BUT EASY DOES IT

• The president briefed and did what he said he would – explained the phased easing of the lockdown.

• We now have 5 levels – we are currently in full lockdown at Level 5.

• Next Friday, we move to level 4.

• That means some businesses will be able to start going back to work under very strict conditions.

• Which businesses exactly have yet to be announced but it will be informed by an analysis of the kind of business, its contribution to the economy and the effect of the lockdown on livelihoods. This should be detailed in a briefing or two or three in the coming days.

• Businesses will have to conform to very strict health and safety standards, have plans in place for disease tracking and they will have to adequately prepare for a return to work.

• Businesses who can resume will have to phase in the resumption, with only a third of their staff allowed back at first and phasing in remaining staff over a period of time.

• Anyone who can work from home, should.

• The number of goods that are allowed to be sold will be expanded – and yes, smokers, cigarettes will be sold at level 4.

• Bars, pubs and shebeens will not be allowed to reopen but the president didn’t explicitly say that the ban on alcohol sales will continue, rather just that the ministers would expand on what will be allowed to be sold during upcoming briefings.

• No entertainment venues will be allowed to open – eg. cinemas and theatres; no conference venues or convention centres.

• You will be allowed to exercise but under strict conditions that have yet to be explained.

• All gatherings remain banned except for funerals and at work.

• Borders remain closed except for repatriation, no travel between provinces except for goods transport.

• No interprovincial travel is allowed except for the transportation off goods and funerals.

• Public transport will operate with limitations on the number of passengers in a vehicle – all passengers must wear a face mask.

• Expect details from the relevant ministers about the process for the phased reopening of schools and other educational institutions.

WATCH: President Ramaphosa announces steps to ease SA's lockdown

LEVELS

• The levels are determined by the Coronavirus Command Council and are informed by various factors: the rate of transmission, the readiness of the healthcare system to deal with the virus’ trajectory, and the economic situation and needs at the time.

• Level 5 is where we are at now – hard, full lockdown.

• Level 4 is where we’ll be on 1 May - so things get back to some semblance of normality, with some sectors returning to work, a little more personal freedom etc.

• Level 3 sees some restrictions easing, including on work and social activities.

• Level 2 involves more easing of restrictions but with strict physical distancing measures and restrictions on leisure activities.

• Level 1 is a return to something close to the normal we remember but again, with fairly strict precautions.

• Cloth masks are our future (watch the president put his on after the address) and the textile industry has been retooled to start making millions of them. Everyone will need to wear them when they are out.

• Initially, the level will be determined nationally but eventually, provinces, districts, metros and municipalities will be able to lockdown.

WESTERN CAPE OVERTAKES GAUTENG AS COVID-19 EPICENTRE

• We’ve been seeing a higher number of deaths in the Western Cape and KZN as compared to other provinces.

• That begs the question – why?

• Western Cape Head of Health Dr Kieth Cloete says all those who’ve died have either been elderly or have had significant co-morbidities – it’s just the way the numbers are running at the moment. People with more co-morbidities than just one and things like inadequately managed hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and anything underlying that affects the chest are at exponentially higher risk of death.

• Cloete warned in the morning that their mass screening is revealing that it’s quite likely the Western Cape will overtake Gauteng as the national epicentre of COVID-19 and also said the Western Cape will soon become the province with the highest death count – by 7:30pm he was proved right.

• They are finding significant clusters of cases related specifically to supermarkets and factories.

• The danger there is that people go to a place, become infected and then go back to their homes and create secondary nodes of infection.

• It’s important to note here that this doesn’t mean the health services are doing anything wrong. The fact that they are able to track this kind of movement of the virus is actually a good thing because it allows them to intervene appropriately.

SASSA – WILL IT BE UP TO THE GRANTS TASK?

• Hundreds of thousands of people are likely to try to access the special 6-month COVID-19 relief grant of R350 per month.

• Sassa has been tasked with making all this happen.

• They’ve created a platform, which they are finalising, that will allow people to use an SMS or WhatsApp to send a message to a Sassa, stating that they receive no other grant, aren’t getting UIF payment, are South African and in need, along with their ID number.

• They are then verified (checked against UIF and grant databases) and approved.

• Sassa plans to work with civil society and NGOs to help those who have no devices to apply.

• Registered refugees and foreigners with legal status will qualify too.

• They are hoping to start paying out at the beginning of May – from then on, they will be paid as they are approved.

• Money will be paid out via eVoucher, a mobile money transfer or directly into their bank account if they have one.

• This will replace food parcels that Sassa has been mandated to deliver.

• They are in the process of testing the system they have in place and hope to release.

• The number will be up and running by the end of the weekend.

OTHER HELP

• The SOLIDARITY FUND now has R2.6 billion in pledges.

• By end of the week – website relaunch with real time/daily dashboards reflecting donations, money disbursed and actual impact/people reached.

• It’s already spent R1 billion on PPEs, has undertaken to deliver a quarter of a million food parcels by the end of April and made funding available to allow the National Health Laboratory Services to conduct 400,000 more tests.

DIS-CHEM NAMED AND SHAMED

• The Competition Commission has found Dis-Chem inflated prices ahead of the lockdown.

• It investigated based on a complaint from the public and found Dis-Chem inflated the price of facemasks.

• They were selling surgical face masks for R43.47 (excl VAT) in February, and R156.95 (excl VAT) in March 2020 (and increase of 261%).

ANOTHER FAKE

• A supposed message by the Head of Trauma at Groote Schuur Hospital was doing the rounds on WhatsApp.

• The list of things to get used to was attributed to Professor Andrew Nicol.

• He confirmed the message was fake and said he’s very disappointed.