President Cyril Ramaphosa extended a nighttime curfew and reduced the permissible size of public gatherings to contain the spread of the coronavirus after a surge in infections.
The curfew will run from 11pm to 4am, one hour longer than before, as the country moves to virus alert-level two, from level one. A maximum of 100 people will be allowed at indoor gatherings and 250 at outdoor events. A widely anticipated tightening of curbs on alcohol sales didn’t materialise.
“We have seen in other countries the tragic consequences of allowing the virus to spread unchecked,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday. “Further restrictions are necessary to ensure health facilities are not overwhelmed and lives that can be saved are not lost.”
The seven-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases has risen to 3 745, from less than 800 in early April, while the test positivity rate has risen to more than 11%. More than 1.6 million people in South Africa have been diagnosed with the disease, the most in Africa, and more than 56 000 of them have died, according to health ministry data.
Four provinces have already entered a third wave of infections and it may only be a matter of time before it spreads to the entire country, according to Ramaphosa. “We do not yet know how severe this wave will be or how long it will last,” he said.
The country began a vaccination programme on 17 February, inoculating 479 768 health-care workers with a single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot. Another 484 108 mostly elderly people have received a first shot of Pfizer’s double-dose vaccine since 16 May.
“Right now, our priority must be to scale up our vaccination campaign to reach as many people as possible,” Ramaphosa said. — Reported by Loni Prinsloo and S’thembile Cele, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP