Statement by Premier Alan Winde:
I have been informed that the National Covid-19 Command Council (NCCC) has met today to discuss the resurgence being experienced in some provinces, including the Western Cape. This will be followed by a Presidential Coordinating Council meeting tomorrow morning, where the President engages and consults with the nine Premiers.
As I have announced before, the Western Cape Government and local governments in the province are considering their own localised interventions and restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19 in line with our own respective powers, and we will be setting out our response plan at my weekly digitial press conference on Thursday.
While we are considering our own interventions, the Western Cape Government does intend to engage the President on our position on existing regulations during this meeting tomorrow. This is because all regulations under the Disaster Management Act are promulgated by the National Government and not Provincial Governments.
During this consultation, the Western Cape will strongly argue against any blunt instrument, like a lockdown, being imposed on the province.
We must first do everything possible, through our individual and collective action to ensure the resurgence is rolled-back and to prevent this tool from ever having to be used again.
A lockdown would be disastrous for our economy, will cause major job losses, and indeed a humanitarian disaster, and must be prevented at all costs.
If we all wear a mask, follow the golden rules, and avoid the 3Cs (crowded places, confined spaces and close contact), we can make a major dent in this resurgence. This should be our top priority across all spheres of government.
Our position remains that we need common-sense, targeted, and localised interventions that ensure that we protect our healthcare system and reduce the spread of Covid-19, while ensuring that the economy remains as open as possible. And these interventions must be based on top scientific advice.
One such intervention which is needed is around gatherings, and especially those that take place indoors. Our surveillance teams have traced many cluster outbreaks to indoor gatherings of people, as the virus spreads quicker in confined spaces when there is poor ventilation. The number of people permitted to gather indoors, currently at 250, is too high and this needs to be reconsidered for specific hotspots where the virus is spreading faster.
I will also communicate to the President that Provincial Governments should be delegated more powers to implement interventions close to specific geographic hotspots so that we can get the best possible outcomes in those areas. This localised approach will allow for each area’s specific challenges to be taken into account and prevent blunt tools that have unintended consequences.
All these interventions need to be underpinned by a major behaviour change push. We need increased communication by all spheres of government on the safety precautions that residents should be taking over the festive season, and the National Government should assist hotspots in this respect.
This, in turn, needs to be coupled with more visible enforcement in our hotspots. There are already many regulations in place that can be leveraged to respond right now, but they need to be enforced as a matter of urgency so that there are consequences for those breaking the rules. The Western Cape Government is doing what it can in turn of its own competencies, but full coordinated action will make a bigger impact.
However, a major challenge we face in this regard is the limited policing resources in the Western Cape and redirecting our law enforcement teams to enforce regulations while rampant crime continues is highly problematic. The President should therefore allocate more police officers to hotspots to enable additional enforcement that does not undermine crime prevention.
This big push on behaviour change, with common-sense, targeted interventions linked to scientific advice, and increased enforcement of said interventions, is the best way we can get the balance between keeping the economy open and slowing the spread of Covid-19.