Africans older than 60 may face many more months at home under proposed
“risk-adjusted” lockdown rules from 1 May, if the projected
coronavirus peak indeed hits the country around September.
President Cyril Ramaphosa
announced a raft of measures on Thursday to open the economy and sectors of
society under a new, five-level alert system.
He said: “When the country
moves to Level 4 on 1 May, those who are elderly, and those with underlying
conditions, must remain at home and take additional precautions to isolate
Cabinet ministers are due to
unpack the various implications of all the new rules, which will be gazetted
sometime this week after public comment.
If finalised, these measures for
the elderly would apply to effectively between 7-10% of the population and up
to six million of the country’s residents, according to census data.
Cooperative Governance and
Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Saturday said the
“elderly” were categorised as people aged 60 and older.
What do the various draft plans
show for work and personal movement for people older than 60?
According to the draft framework
for sectors released by government on Saturday, elderly people were encouraged
at all alert levels to prioritise their health when it came to personal
From Levels 2 to 5, the most
severe of the levels, “elderly and persons with comorbidities are
encouraged to self-isolate and only leave home for exceptional reasons”,
the schedule said.
At Level 1, the most relaxed of
the levels, it reads “elderly and persons with comorbidities are
encouraged to take additional precautions when leaving home”.
With regards to work, government
confirmed on Saturday that its stance for the elderly is: “Workers above
the age of 60, as well as workers with comorbidities, should be offered a
work-from-home option or remain on leave after engagement with employers and
Ramaphosa’s statement regarding
the elderly this week spoke only of the conditions under the looming Level 4.
But, earlier this week, a
document titled the “Risk-adjusted strategy for economic activity”
was leaked, which was confirmed by the presidency as authentic, but subject to
Page 16 of the draft document
said this work stance would be “applicable across all levels”.
If gazetted, this would mean
South Africans aged 60 and older may not be able to return to work in person
under all five “levels”, subject to a change in the rules governing
Their continued work situation
would depend on their employers’ ability to provide work-from-home or leave
the government determine the different levels?
On Saturday, Dlamini-Zuma said
the government would examine the data on a weekly basis, News24 reported.
“We’ll be looking at data on
a weekly basis. If there is no dramatic change in the data, there will be no
change [in the level of the lockdown],” she said.
According to Dlamini-Zuma’s
presentation, they consider the following to determine what the alert level
– Rate at which the proportion of the
population tested is increasing (higher is better).
– Rate at which the proportion of positive
tests is increasing (lower is better).
– Rate of increase in fixed and makeshift
hospital beds in both public and private sectors per 1 000 population (higher
– Rate at which the proportion of hospital
beds being utilised for Covid-19 is increasing (lower is better).
All four measures will change
over time and will influence the level at which the country, a province, or
district will be classified.
could these measures be in effect
how long this rule could apply to the elderly, health department sources said
as soon as the infection rate declined sufficiently.
this has been identified in many countries as a ratio of one – meaning one
infected person infects no more than one other person.
health experts have predicted South Africa’s “peak” may only be in
September. This could mean the elderly could have to remain at home for at
least the next five months.
period would also coincide with South Africa’s winter.
In the course of this week, the
final drafts will be finalised and gazetted once the public has commented.
What it will likely mean, though,
is that South Africans older than 60 will likely be confined to the safety of
their homes for much longer than the rest of the population, leaving only for
– Additional reporting by Paul Herman and Jan
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