Dr Joe Phaahla. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Dr Joe Phaahla. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Health minister Joe Phaahla dropped a broad hint on Friday that his department will recommend an easing of the alert level 3 lockdown next week.

Giving a media briefing at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital vaccination site in Soweto, Phaahla said he was encouraged by the decline in the third wave of Covid-19 in most provinces.

“We are hoping that KwaZulu-Natal will start to decline and Eastern Cape will stabilise,” he said. “We will give a report to the president in the next week and if it becomes clear that there is stability we will give the necessary advice.”

Phaahla said the government was not oblivious to the pressure for eased restrictions.

“The government is very sensitive to this matter, but at the same time we are about saving lives and saving livelihoods,” he said. The number of active Covid-19 infections nationwide was 145,026 at close of business on Thursday, 13.4% lower than a week earlier. Active infections have declined by 1,227 a day over the last two weeks.

Phaahla added that the government was planning relaxed lockdown Covid-19 restrictions for vaccinated people. He said the health department was not considering making vaccines mandatory but was prioritising “encouragement”.

“What we are looking at is soft kinds of incentives. People are hungry for entertainment, for music festivals, to go to Orlando stadium to watch a soccer match,” Phaahla told the briefing.

“With confirmation that you are vaccinated, we could start opening up more facilities and say, 'if you are vaccinated, so many people can go to a soccer stadium to watch a match; if you are vaccinated, so many people can go to Newtown to watch some music'.”

Phaahla said that that programme, which was being discussed with sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa, aimed to offer a benefit to being vaccinated, “not just because I am saving my life but so that I can access more and more activity”.

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