People’s attitude towards the coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed since the move to lockdown Level 1 and healthcare professionals are concerned. They say health protocols such as the wearing of a mask, sanitising and social distancing are being ignored and that it could lead to another surge in infections.

They’re particularly worried about big gatherings and festivities planned for December.

South Africa has recorded more than 16 500 COVID-19 related deaths. Daily infections are on a downward trajectory, but fears that the persistence of irresponsible behaviour could change that.

SA’s latest COVID-19 stats below:

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Level 1 has allowed the resumption of most economic activity and with it comes a greater movement of people. But citizens seem to be mistaking this as a sign that the virus has disappeared.

“People are a lot more comfortable, there is a lot more movement compared to Level 3. I have also let my guard down. It is worrying, but I also think people are fed up with how we were living. I did not take as much precaution under Level 1 as I did with Level 3 and 4,” one citizen has said.

“I feel comfortable to move around because I know it is no longer critical because the figures have declined,” says another citizen.

Regulations under lockdown Level 1:

Social gatherings

Level 1 permits social gatherings of up to 250 people, but health guidelines have to be followed.

However, according to events planner, Slindokuhle Khumalo, the guidelines are not being adhered to.

“I have received a lot of clients who wanted quotations for events, for 30 people to 200 people. It is parties, weddings, bridal showers. Last week, I did two events; one was for 50 people and the other 80. In both events, I saw that people are relaxed, more relaxed than they should be. I did not see anyone wearing a mask and social distancing was not practised.”

With the festive season being around the corner and many families planning getaways and large gatherings – President of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), Dr Angelique Coetzee, says the country could have another peak if people don’t follow the health protocols.

“People not adhering to protocols anymore. People think there is no virus and they can do whatever they want to. It should not be government bringing the lower levels, the less you have to do. As a citizen, you have the responsibility to keep on wearing the mask, social distancing for at least another one and a half years. We are expecting to see a peak in January, but I don’t think the peak will be as bad as the previous one. People need to understand that even if you go on holiday, the virus needs a warm body to go with on holiday.”

Stricter regulations

Professor Cheryl Cohen of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says if pockets of infection begin to surge again, stricter regulations will have to be implemented.

“We have noted and very positively that the number of cases are going down. One of the main reasons contributing to this reduction is very likely, all the measures that people have implemented. It is a concern that if people start to relax then we could see an increase in number of clusters of cases related to large social gatherings. Government is opening the economy but what we want to do is allow economic and social activity to proceed but with people implementing the measures so that we don’t have an upsurge in cases and implement measures which don’t have a bad economic impact.”

The healthcare professionals are pleading with South Africans to continue taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and to continue wearing masks, sanitise and maintaining social distancing.

Below are Alert Level 1 lockdown restrictions: