Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says implementing hard lockdowns in localised districts will remain a possibility as COVID-19 cases spike – but no such decision has been taken at this stage.

Speaking in a series of radio interviews on Tuesday morning, Mkhize said there are concerns over the rate at which case numbers are rising in Gauteng, especially.

“A hard lockdown will always remain a possibility. Western Cape started surging numbers quicker than anyone else. In the month of June, cases in the Western Cape went up by 40,000 people. But in Gauteng…we are close to 3,000 people per day. The numbers are rising pretty quickly in Gauteng. Too many people are getting sick at the same time,” Mkhize said.

He urged people to wear cloth masks while in public, frequently clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer, and practise social distancing.

A meeting is expected to be held later today between Mkhize and members of the Gauteng government to discuss what processes can be put in place to fast track the procurement of additional hospital beds in anticipation of more cases in the province.

“The month of July is going to be really where we are going to see much larger numbers…and going into August. We believe that there is going to be a lot more pressure in the coming two months. We could have been in this situation much earlier if we didn’t do the lockdown,” Mkhize said on 702.

“Eastern Cape has got a number of challenges, part of it has also got to do with the need to strengthen their management capacity. We have deployed senior managers to go and assist so that on the ground they have got a better response. Their needs to be a much stronger, tighter management in the province.”

Mkhize warned that those on chronic medication can fill their scripts for up to three months so they do not need to visit a clinic frequently for medication. He said those with comorbidities should work at home if possible – or be allowed to work in an area where there is less risk of exposure at offices. He further encouraged people not to travel unnecessarily.

Speaking on SAFM, Mkhize emphasized no decision has been taken to implement another hard lockdown.

“There has not been any decision taken (to have another hard lockdown) and certainly the NCCC does not take lightly a decision of that nature. There may be need in some areas for restrictions, it may not be national but localised. But no such decision has been taken as yet,” he said.

“One of the challenges with Gauteng is the fact that you have different metropolitan areas which is one ecosystem…As we move into the future we need to be open minded as to what our needs are.”

He said the health system in Eastern Cape needed to be bolstered in its entirety.

“I am concerned about the Eastern Cape largely because the health system has always had challenges. Certainly their management does need strengthening. In the past six to eight weeks, there has been a huge improvement in the planning and management…they needed a bit of reinforcement and so I’ve sent other senior officials to help coordinate the response on the ground,” he said.

Mkhize urged people to take preventative measures into their own hands.

“We could not sustain the lockdown the way it was. We needed people to get back to their jobs and for the economy to be revived. We needed to do that under new circumstances where we use masks, social distance and sanitize our hands. That is a new way of reviving our economy and social activities that needs to be always remembered. A lot of prevention is in the hands of our society,” he said.