CORONAVIRUS

South Africa moves to Adjusted Alert Level 2 as president pleads with nation to get the vaccine

By Estelle Ellis 13 September 2021

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation on the government's response to Covid-19, vaccines and lifting of lockdown restrictions on Sunday, 12 September 2021. (Photo: GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night announced that South Africa was moving to Adjusted Alert Level 2 of lockdown regulations, allowing for a number of restrictions on movement, gathering and alcohol sales to be lifted.

Estelle Ellis

Lockdown restrictions will be eased from Monday morning to allow for larger gatherings, longer trading hours for alcohol sales and an extended curfew, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday. 

His announcement came as a significant decline in new and active coronavirus infections was noted around the country. 

On Friday the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, announced that Gauteng and Limpopo had both exited the third wave of infections but said the  Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal still had high numbers of active cases. 

Ramaphosa said that while the third wave of infections in South Africa as a whole was not over, there had been a sustained and marked decline in infections nationally. 

He, however, added that the incidence rate of Covid-19 in the Free State and the Northern Cape had remained relatively high for several months and that the government would be looking into the drivers of infections in these two provinces “and how to bring them down”. 

Changes in restrictions on movement and gatherings for Adjusted Alert Level 2 include: 

  • Curfew reduced by one hour – the hours are now from 11pm to 4am;
  • Restaurants, bars and fitness centres can now close at 10pm rather than 9pm;
  • Indoor gatherings can now be for up to 250 people and outdoors gatherings can allow 500 people; and
  • The sale of alcohol from retail outlets will now be permitted from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Friday and the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption will be permitted until 10pm. 

Ramaphosa said the impact of these more relaxed restrictions would be reviewed in a fortnight. 

In a plea to South Africans to get vaccinated, he said it must be a national priority to prevent a resurgence of infections once the third wave is over. 

“It needs to be emphasised that the third wave is not yet over, and it is only through our actions – individually and collectively – that we will be able to reduce the number of new infections still further. 

“Once we have done that, our priority must be to prevent a resurgence of infections. Our most urgent task is to vaccinate our population so that as many people as possible are protected from severe illness or death before any resurgence of infections. 

“The more people that get vaccinated before December, the less likely it is that we will experience a devastating fourth wave over the holiday period. That is the greatest reason for all of us who have not yet done so to get to a vaccination site and get protected.”  

Ramaphosa said the government would soon announce more information on “vaccine passports”.  

Funerals will remain restricted to 50 people and the ban on “after-tears” gatherings remains in place. 

Ramaphosa said data from the Western Cape, gathered between 14 and 20 August, made a strong case for vaccination. These figures showed that only 30 out of 729 people above the age of 60 who were admitted to hospitals in the province for Covid-19 that week had been vaccinated. 

“This means that 699 of those were not vaccinated. And of the 292 people above the age of 60 who died from Covid-19 that week, 287 of them were not vaccinated, meaning only five were vaccinated,” Ramaphosa said. 

 “A similar pattern has emerged in hospitals across the country.”  

He said that the country was “fast becoming a vaccination site”, with more than a quarter of all adult South Africans having received at least one vaccine dose and more than seven million fully vaccinated. 

With a total of 14.6 million doses of the vaccine having been administered so far, Ramaphosa said in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and the Western Cape, more than one in five adults are now fully vaccinated. 

“How soon that day arrives depends on one thing: how many of us get vaccinated and how quickly. We have overcome three waves of infection because of our collective resolve and our adherence to basic health precautions. 

“I want to stress that the vaccination programme is open to all people in South Africa, whether or not they are South African citizens. It is important to bear in mind that this is a new virus that the world has never encountered before. 

“Although nobody can predict how the virus will mutate further, the scientific community has developed innovative ways of tracking the emergence of new variants. If many people are not vaccinated and remain vulnerable to infection, the chance of new and more dangerous variants emerging is far greater. That is why vaccines are currently the most potent weapon we have to fight this pandemic.  

“The sooner we are all vaccinated, the sooner we can open up sports venues to spectators. The sooner we are all vaccinated the sooner we can welcome tourists to our beautiful country. If we are all vaccinated, the sooner we can meet with friends and family, the sooner we can return to offices and other places of work. 

“When we are vaccinated, we will be able to return our economy to full operation and create the jobs that our country needs. Importantly, when we are vaccinated, we will be able to restore all our other critical health interventions and relieve the strain on our health workers. 

“It is up to each and every one of us to convince our family, friends and co-workers that vaccination is safe and that it could save their lives.”  

Ramaphosa said that as South Africa gets ready for the local government elections in 50 days it is important that everything possible is done to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19 infections. 

“At the same time, we need to ensure that the pandemic does not limit the ability of all South Africans to freely exercise their democratic right to elect their local councillors. This is a matter that I discussed with political party leaders earlier in the week, and there is a firm commitment from all parties that election campaigning should adhere to the State of Disaster regulations and all health protocols.” 

As he did in 2020, Ramaphosa bemoaned high levels of gender-based violence in South Africa, saying it was “the other pandemic that is causing such misery and damage in our society”. 

“We have just finished Women’s Month, where we planned to celebrate the success of women in many fields. Instead, our country bore witness to several brutal attacks by men against women. This month alone there have been a number of terrible crimes committed against women and girls.  

“There was Fort Hare law student Ms Nosicelo Mtebeni, who was murdered and dismembered in East London; there was the Grade One pupil from Khensani Primary School in Soshanguve, who was raped in the school’s toilets; there was Ms Palesa Maruping, who was found hanging from the ceiling of a house in Khuma Location in the North West; and Ms Pheliswa Sawutana, who was strangled to death in Kosovo informal settlement in Cape Town. 

“These are just the cases that were covered in the media; there were others that were not. These gruesome acts of violence cannot go unpunished. They must strengthen our resolve to end gender-based violence in all its forms. 

“I wish to once again make a call to the men of this country to understand that the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution belong to all people, men and women alike.” 

Ramaphosa said the government was continuing its assistance to households that were severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the July civil unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. 

“Since we reopened applications for the special Social Relief of Distress grant in the first week of August, we have received nearly 13 million applications. Of these, 8.3 million applications have been approved, and payments have started to these recipients. Just over 3.7 million applications were declined, mainly because applicants have other identified sources of income or are registered for assistance. Around 845,000 applications are still in the validation process. 

“Along with the other measures we have put in place, this grant is providing critical assistance to unemployed South Africans at this most difficult time,” he said. 

“The day will soon come when we can gather again without restrictions, fill stadiums and music venues, travel and move about freely without the fear of becoming ill or losing our loved ones,” Ramaphosa concluded. 

“How soon that day arrives depends on one thing: how many of us get vaccinated and how quickly. We have overcome three waves of infection because of our collective resolve and our adherence to basic health precautions. 

“Let us make it our mission to vaccinate as many people as we can, so that we can move ahead with the task of rebuilding our economy and our lives.” DM/MC

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