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The government will start consulting on how to take most of the country down to level 3 of the lockdown at the end of May, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday evening.

Parts of South Africa with the highest Covid-19 infection rates will have to endure level 4 for longer - major metros such as Cape Town come to mind.

Ramaphosa cautioned against hoping for a swift opening of the economy, saying that doing so could lead to a “rapid and insurmountable surge in infections”.

He promised that the government will be guided by scientific evidence presented by local and international experts.

The President responded to critics of the lockdown by claiming that our death toll would’ve eight times higher without it.

… the purpose of the lockdown was to delay the spread of the virus and prevent a huge surge of infections. So far, we have been successful… By delaying the spread of the disease, we have been able to strengthen the capacity of our health system and to put in place wide-ranging public health programmes… you, the people of South Africa, have helped us to save many lives.

President Cyril Ramaphosa

Refilwe Moloto interviewed Sithembile Mbete, a senior political scientist at the University of Pretoria.

We need the President to be doing a Q&A. That speech yesterday should’ve been a press conference… with questions and answers. That’s what people want. They want to engage the President directly and have him explain in an unscripted way… Having ministers and scientists there to support him in answering would’ve been valuable.

Sithembile Mbete, senior political scientist - University of Pretoria

The President is incredibly image-conscious… but in a crisis, you can’t choreograph everything… The government’s communication service is not doing its job… For example, Ebrahim Patel’s clothing regulations – what was missing from the communications is that decisions were taken in consultations with retailers and clothing manufacturers… it wasn’t a government dictate…

Sithembile Mbete, senior political scientist - University of Pretoria

Cape Town, Tshwane, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay… are not going to see level 3 for a while… they can expect to be on level 4 for a long time…

Sithembile Mbete, senior political scientist - University of Pretoria

[On expected adjustments to level 4] We’ll see an expansion in e-commerce… we may see more stores opening… and a revision of the decision on cigarettes… certain parts of the government’s operations...

Sithembile Mbete, senior political scientist - University of Pretoria

Listen to the interview in the audio below.

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : 'Cape Town can expect to be on level 4 for a long time'

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