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Public Health Response to COVID-19 Outlined

April 29, 2020

Department of Health

Early evidence suggests that the nationwide lockdown, imposed since 26 March 2020, has successfully limited the spread of the coronavirus.

The health department confirmed this in a briefing on South Africa’s public health response to COVID-19.

The department warned, though, that lifting lockdown restrictions too soon, or in an unsystematic or disorderly manner, pose serious risks.

According to the department, restrictions on economic activity need to be adapted to epidemiological trends and can be relaxed or tightened in different periods.

An alert system is called for with clearly defined levels of restriction that can be imposed by the National Command Council where necessary.

Government will be able to switch between levels speedily using mass communication platforms to inform the public.

Three criteria should be used to determine which economic sectors should be allowed to gradually resume activity:

• Risk of transmission;
• Expected impact on the sector of continued lockdown; and
• Value of the sector to the economy.

The department points out that sectors with a high risk of transmission should not be allowed to resume activity until the risk is reduced irrespective of the potential impact on the sector or the value to the economy.

The department plans to issue a comprehensive guidance note stipulating health and safety practices for returning to work.

Individual ministers will also be able to, in consultation with the health minister, impose exceptions and additional directions in sectors within their respective portfolios.