The whole country will move to level 3 lockdown from 1 June, including areas identified as hotspots.
However, if these areas are not able to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19, they may be forced up to level 5, said Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Mkhize has clarified this after the confusion was created when an old slide was presented stating hotspots would remain at level 4 and was also making rounds on social media.
“The slide was part of a presentation previously done by Health Department prior to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) resolving on the final approach to be adopted for the country, which was subsequently announced by His Excellency, President MC Ramaphosa,” Mkhize explained.
He said measures to identify areas that have been defined as epidemiological hotspots, which have than five infected people per 100 000 population, or places where the infections are increasing at a fast pace.
“As it stands, the government has immediately taken steps to intervene in areas that are regarded as hotspots by deploying experts and specialists who will implement measures to curb the spread.”
To curb transmission, Mkhize said these areas also require heightened levels of tracing of contacts of positive patients, ensuring that those who are positive remain in quarantine or isolation and those who cannot self-quarantine are accommodated in quarantine facilities provided for by provinces.
“In some of these hotspots, cluster outbreaks have also been identified. This means, positive cases arising from people participating in the same activity within a specific area including factories, grocery shops, farms and so on.”
He raised concerns about cluster outbreaks to drive the pandemic because the spread occurs within the cluster then individuals take the virus home with them, thus causing community outbreaks.
“This, therefore, means that as the whole country moves to level 3, there will be a constant assessment of each and every area and its rate of infection, in which case, further containment measures and restrictions may be considered.”
"If the spread of the infection is not contained despite the above-mentioned interventions, government will make a determination on whether to return that specific area, (i.e. metropolitan, district, sub-district, ward) to alert level 4 or 5," he said.
He said this will be done rapidly and in an effort to contain and manage the spread, and also to ensure that the health facilities are not overwhelmed by the rapid rise of positive cases in that area.
Mkhize said this raises the importance of social behaviour.
“Members of the community can and must take it upon themselves to observe social distancing by keeping more than the 1-metre distance from the next person; constantly wash and/or sanitize hands; wearing a face mask; avoid touching ones face with unwashed hands and clean surfaces we come into contact with.”
He is also advising people to stay at home which remains key, he said.
“And for those employees who can work from home, we urge employers to promote and facilitate this new culture. For those employees who must still go to work, they must embrace the new way of life which will protect them, their families and their fellow workers,” he added.