South Africans have been left on tenterhooks since President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation last week. He confirmed that most of the country would move to Level 3 of lockdown, barring districts that were experiencing high rates of COVID-19 infections, by the end of the month.
COVID-19 predictions for South Africa
However, his vague statement still left a lot of questions that needed answering. Namely, the actual date of when the next phase of lockdown would be ushered in. Eight days on from that presidential address, and we're none the wiser. Well, that was until Zweli Mkhize hosted a health symposium on Thursday.
The health minister invited several scientists to share their predictions and models for the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa. Most forecasts predict there will be something in the region of 30 000 – 50 000 deaths in the country by the time the pandemic has run its course.
Lockdown Level 3 – latest news and updates
Juliet Pulliam is the Director of SACEMA and a Professor of Applied Mathematics at Stellenbosch University. Her presentation lauded the success of lockdown measures and claimed that the peak of the disease is still two-to-three months away. However, she may have inadvertently revealed our date for shifting lockdown stages – on the same day two government ministers cancelled their media briefings.
What date will South Africa move to Level 3 of lockdown?
Pulliam hinted that the peak could only be truly pinpointed when 'new measures come into place' after Sunday 31 May. The measures she refers to are likely to be the easing of lockdown restrictions at Level 3, and her statement has added to mounting speculation about when SA can move forward.
There is a hint of ambiguity about the actual date she mentions – as the changes could either come into effect on May 31, or the day after, on Monday 1 June. Pulliam also believes that the curve 'has been flattened':
"Lockdown measures have worked. The curve has flattened. Initial social distancing and lockdown measures have delayed the peak of infections but haven't stopped the possible breach of ICU bed requirements… South Africa requires collective social behavior changes in order to get out of the COVID-19 pandemic."Juliet Pulliam