Why Gauteng needs a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown

Discovery Health estimates that as many as two-thirds of South Africans have already contracted Covid-19 at some point, with area-specific immunity being seen in some parts of the country, says chief executive Ryan Noach.

Noach told CapeTalk that this was positive news in that there is a level of immunity conferred onto the population, and that areas which have had a particularly high concentration of cases are less susceptible to massive waves of Covid-19.

While Noach said that he does not envy the balancing act that government has in keeping the economy open and keeping the healthcare sector running, he said that a case could be made for introducing a higher lockdown in Gauteng at an epidemiological and clinic level.

He said that there are higher peaks in Gauteng of new infections than there have been seen in any previous wave. There is also a two-week lag between infections and the consequent hospitalisations, which is very concerning.

This means that the hospitals, which are already very full, are still two to three weeks away from their peak.

“Perhaps a circuit-breaker is required, a short-term lockdown just to try and change the trajectory of infections at the moment. It is such an unpredictable disease, and we just don’t know when it peaks.”

Area-specific immunity

Noach pointed to the Eastern Cape which experienced a high level of cases in the country’s second Covid-19 wave and is experiencing fewer cases during the current third wave of infections.

This is possible evidence of some level of immunity at a population level. This is yet to be fully understood, he said, but it is clear that the Eastern Cape is not surging into this third wave like the rest of the country.

Discovery’s estimates of possible population immunity shows:

  • The Eastern Cape: 91% of people may have been infected;
  • Western Cape: 50% of people may have been infected;
  • KZN: 87% of people may have been infected.

He said that this data is undermined somewhat by the fact that some reinfections have been reported. Fortunately, these reinfections tend to happen in a smaller proportion of the population, according to Discovery’s data.

Four members across the scheme have contracted Covid-19 three times, and this shows that South Africans should not drop their guard if they have already had Covid-19, Noach said.

He added that the reinfection data shows the importance of vaccines in helping to end the pandemic.

Government to meet

Gauteng’s provincial command council will meet on Tuesday (22 June), with the meeting set to focus on the possibility of recommending severe restrictions, similar to what was imposed when the country was under level 4 or 5 lockdowns.

A national meeting is set to be held on Thursday (24 June) where these and other recommendations will be tabled. However, the Gauteng premier has already indicated that he will push for a stronger lockdown in the province.

“The pandemic is completely out of control and if we have to do extraordinary things, like to ask for further restrictions above level three in Gauteng, it’s something we must explore,” he said.

South Africa reported 9,160 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday (21 June), taking the total reported to 1,832,479. 69% of these new cases were reported in Gauteng alone.

Deaths have reached 58,795, while recoveries have climbed to 1,656,680, leaving the country with a balance of 117,004 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 2,114,204.

Read: Government considers move to higher lockdown level in South Africa: report

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