Covid-19

COVID-19

Ramaphosa ramps up Covid-19 restrictions: South Africa moves to Level Three 

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 27th National Freedom Day Celebrations in Botshabelo, South Africa on 27 April 2021. (Photo: GCIS / Jairus Mmutle)

With South Africa recording an increase of more than 7,500 new cases of coronavirus infections in a single day, and with a warning that Gauteng will be especially hard hit by the third wave, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday night that the country will move to Alert Level 3 with a curfew starting at 10pm and additional restrictions on gatherings and the sale of alcohol.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday night moved the country to Alert Level 3, announcing more restrictions on movement, alcohol sales and gatherings after South Africa recorded an average of 7,500 new coronavirus infections daily in the past seven days. 

“Hospital admissions due to Covid-19 over the last 14 days are 59% higher than the preceding 14 days,” said Ramaphosa. 

“The average number of people who die from Covid-19 each day has increased by 48%, from 535 two weeks ago to 791 in the past seven days. 

“The proportion of Covid tests that are positive – the so-called positivity rate – is continuing to rise in Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape, Free State and KwaZuluNatal. Of these, Gauteng has been the worst hit. It accounts for nearly two-thirds of new cases measured over the last week. 

“The increase in infections in Gauteng is now faster and steeper than it was at the same time in previous waves. Within a matter of days, it is likely that the number of new cases in Gauteng will surpass the peak of the second wave. Private hospitals in the province have reported that they are near capacity.”

Ramaphosa said he understands that South Africans feel weary, but stressed the need for physical distancing, washing and sanitising of hands and wearing of masks.

He added that while the numbers showing the rise in infections were disconcerting, there was one statistic that “provided a clear reason for hope”. 

“At a similar point in the rise of the second wave of infections in early December last year, there were 640 healthcare workers infected by Covid-19 over a seven day period. In the last seven days, only 64 healthcare workers have been infected. 

“While it must be our unwavering determination to ensure that no healthcare workers are infected, this is a significant reduction in infections, which can be attributed to the success of the first phase of our vaccination programme. 

“This is evidence that vaccines work,” Ramaphosa said.

“Although it has encountered several setbacks, our mass vaccination programme is gaining momentum and we are finally on the path to controlling the disease. But although we have reason to hope, we still have a mountain to climb. 

“A third wave of infections is upon us. We have to contain this new wave of infections,” he added.

Ramaphosa confirmed that two million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, mixed and finished at the Gqeberha plant of Aspen Pharmacare, will have to be destroyed after the American Food and Drug Administration found problems at the Baltimore factory that supplied the ingredients.

He said these issues have now been resolved.

“The Aspen plant is now able to go ahead and produce new doses. The company has committed to significantly ramp up production and begin supplying the country within the next few days. 

“We have to date received nearly 2.4 million Pfizer vaccine doses. By the end of June, we expect to have received a total of 3.1 million Pfizer doses. 

“We have received an indication from Johnson & Johnson that it expects to deliver around two million vaccines to South Africa by the end of the month. The initial doses we receive from Johnson & Johnson will be used to vaccinate educators in our schools and thereafter security personnel on the frontline. 

“Now that the delays in the supply of vaccines are largely resolved, our immediate task is to complete the vaccination of all those over 60 years of age without delay. 

“It is estimated that we have the capacity at present to vaccinate at least 150,000 people a day, and we are planning to increase that to 250,000 a day as soon as possible,” he said, adding that he wanted 300,000 people to be vaccinated daily.

Ramaphosa again called on South Africans who are exposed to possible infection to quarantine themselves for 10 days.

He said the move to Level 3 will take effect later in the evening on June 15 when the new regulations are gazetted.

The additional restrictions include:

  • A curfew starting at 10pm and ending at 4am.
  • Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres will need to close by 9pm to allow their employees and patrons to travel home before the start of the curfew.
  • All gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate physical distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used. This includes religious services, political events and social gatherings, as well as restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places. 
  • Attendance at funerals and cremations may not exceed 50 people. Night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and “after-tears” gatherings are not allowed.
  • The sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption will only be permitted between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday. This excludes public holidays. Alcohol sales for on-site consumption will be permitted as per licence conditions up to 9pm. 
  • Alcohol consumption in all public spaces, such as beaches and parks, is strictly forbidden. 

Ramaphosa said the Youth Day commemoration he was scheduled to attend on Wednesday will now be a hybrid event with a virtual address and a significantly reduced number of people in attendance.

He urged people over 60 to register for the vaccine.

“Fifteen months ago, as I addressed the nation from the Union Buildings, I said, ‘This epidemic will pass. But it is up to us to determine how long it will last, how damaging it will be and how long it will take our economy and our country to recover. 

“It is true that we are facing a grave emergency. But if we act together, if we act now, and if we act decisively, we will overcome it.

“We have endured so much as a nation and we have prevailed. We will not be overwhelmed by uncertainty, fear or despondency. We will not be daunted by the size or the complexity of the task before us. 

“We can now see a path towards overcoming this pandemic. But there is still much that we need to do. We have shown that we have the means and the will to fight this virus. And I am more confident than ever that we will succeed,” he added. DM/MC

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