The six tests SA must pass before lockdown is lifted

Freedom

South Africa is rapidly marching towards an eased version of lockdown at Level 3. But what will it take for us to lift the restrictions completely?

There is certainly some momentum behind the notion that South Africa is gearing up to ease its lockdown restrictions at some point this month. A wide-ranging meeting of Cabinet has taken place on Wednesday, which involved the National Command Council and a discussion about moving into Level 3.

The next stage of lockdown promises to free-up a few more industries and eases the rules on some of our civil liberties. Alcohol and cigarettes will likely make a comeback during Level 3, and that should be enough to keep many of us going for a little while longer. However, the government must follow the correct directions if we’re to navigate our way down the road to recovery.

WILL SOUTH AFRICA MOVE TO LEVEL 3 SOON?

The president’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, has also revealed that the ‘risk-adjusted strategy’ – the fancier term for SA’s lockdown – is under review during Wednesday’s discussions:

Ramaphosa has also been quoted in saying that a ‘change in behaviour across society’ will determine how we move forward, throughout the remaining stages of lockdown and beyond.

“Our success in overcoming the coronavirus depends on the changes we maintain in our behaviour. Social distancing, the use of masks & proper hand hygiene must become part of our daily lives.”

Cyril Ramaphosa

BEYOND LEVEL 3: WHEN COULD SOUTH AFRICA GET OUT OF LOCKDOWN COMPLETELY?

But when, exactly, will South Africa be prepared not just for a transition to another lockdown level, but for the decision to completely walk away from all of these restrictions? Social distancing will remain in society for the immediate future, but a shutdown of the national economy can’t possibly last for the same amount of time.

Well, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stepped forward on Wednesday. Cognisant of numerous countries now easing their lockdown laws, the medical experts have been keen to stress that there should be ‘no sudden movements’. If nations – South Africa included – want to leave lockdown altogether, they have to meet these six requirements:

  1. Transmission must be under control: The rate at which coronavirus spreads must be incredibly low.
  2. Health system capacity must be high: Countries have to track, test, isolate and trace every new case.
  3. Low outbreak threat: Hot-spots like care homes and health facilities must pose no significant disease risks.
  4. Preventative measures in place: Schools, workplaces and social hubs have to meet social distancing rules.
  5. Managing imports: Risks that come with handling international need to be mitigated.
  6. Education, education, education: All stakeholders in society must be engaged and informed about COVID-19.

THE REQUIREMENTS FOR RELAXING RESTRICTIONS REVEALED BY WHO

How close is South Africa to passing these six tests? Well, one could argue progress has been made on all six fronts due to the lockdown: The health system has handled case spikes admirably, and the industries returning back to work have all been told to implement strict social distancing laws.

But it’s too early to sit here and say transmission is under control, and there’s no way to guarantee that we can avoid coronavirus flare-ups in sensitive areas. Mzansi may be ready for its next phase of lockdown, but it seems we have a few more exams to sit before passing our final test – and leaving lockdown behind.