David Makhura. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
David Makhura. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

There will be immense pressure on Gauteng’s fight against the coronavirus if the ports of entry such as OR Tambo International airport reopen, premier David Makhura says.

Gauteng, SA’s economic hub, is also the epicentre of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in SA, with most of those people who have tested positive for the virus situated in Johannesburg, Africa’s wealthiest city.

As part of stringent regulations instituted for the national lockdown being enforced under a state of disaster, SA’s borders were closed with few exceptions.

The lockdown enters its third and last week on Friday, and is scheduled to end by midnight on April 16. It is unknown if the lockdown will be extended.

The decision about a possible extension of the lockdown also comes with the arrival of winter in SA, which Makhura said will make Gauteng even more vulnerable.

Makhura said at a media briefing on Thursday that the lockdown helped the province, which accounts for more than 40% of the national infections, as especially OR Tambo International Airport was a big a concern in the spread of the disease, as many people were entering SA on flights.

The spread of the highly infectious disease has brought the aviation industry to a halt globally as countries went into lockdown, and borders were closed.

He said since OR Tambo and Lanseria International Airport were locked down “we have been finding that the work of our tracing team is very focused now”. 

Gauteng is SA’s most populous province and experiences much migration, which has contributed to the rapid urbanisation of the province.

Makhura would not be drawn on the province’s view on extending the lockdown, as the decision was one taken by President Cyril Ramaphosa and the national government.

He did however reiterate a message given last week by health minister Zweli Mkhize, who warned that SA was in a calm before the storm in terms of the virus.

“It will be a profound mistake to think these numbers where we are now represent where we might be,” Makhura said.

He said one had to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

“We know once you open the borders, once you open the airports, you are creating big pressure for us to be able to deal with this situation, but there will also be other assessments that will be made,” Makhura said.

He said this will include what the effect would be on residents, what gains have been made in terms of flattening the curve and what effect it would have on people’s wellbeing.