weekly letter on Monday, Ramaphosa explained that they had to consider the impact the lockdown would have “on an already floundering economy in both the long and short term, and the impact of this substantial disruption on the livelihoods of millions of people”.
These factors would also have to be discussed to find a way forward, Gray said.
“People start to get hungry, depressed, angry and they become incredibly poor. Already before the lockdown, we had high rates of unemployment, we had an economy that was shrinking, and we had been downgraded by the major entities.”
Gray added that these decisions would have consequences, making the government’s choice harder.
“As doctors, we would obviously like to keep everybody locked down, so that we can control the epidemic, but that’s not practical and feasible for poor people in an economy that’s struggling.”
Gray said there needed to be a plan for what might happen after the lockdown. Strategies had to be created to minimise the transmission of Covid-19, including continuing with the approach the government had already taken, like physical distancing, the wearing of masks and reducing gatherings.
“Transmission will occur, and the important thing is to track where the transmission is going and contain it wherever it is. You have to look at who should be kept in – should we keep sick people or people over 60 isolated?”
Adequate medical response
The government will also need to make sure hospitals are able to cope with an influx of patients and that public and private hospitals coordinate to maximise response efforts, Gray said.
“The whole point of flattening the curve is to extend the epidemic, so that you don’t get the kind of peak that you’d see if we did nothing.
“No intervention gives you a very high peak and, when you have this high peak, the capability of the medical assistance to respond can’t happen,” she explained.
In countries with a high number of Covid-19 cases and death rates, health systems have reached near collapse as they run out of hospital beds, ICUs, health workers and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Lockdowns try and control it by trying to prevent transmission, so that when cases happen you have enough human resources and hospital facilities to manage,” Gray explained.
Economic impact vs rate of transmissions
The government will also have to grapple with how they open up the economy while preventing an increase in Covid-19 transmission, Gray explained.
News24 previously reported that a national effort to do this was under way, on a scale “unprecedented in democratic South Africa”.
The government and expert leaders, under a new umbrella organisation called Business for SA, announced an initiative to mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19 on the economy, the public health sector and livelihoods.
The government would have to consider the interplay between the dynamics of Covid-19 transmission, medical preparedness and economic and social factors to find an appropriate outcome after the lockdown.