President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the country will remain on an adjusted Level 3 Lockdown in a bid to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This includes a slightly amended curfew, a ban on alcohol sales, continued beach closures and a ban on public gatherings.
Ramaphosa was addressing the nation on Monday night on developments in relation to the country’s response to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
His so-called “family meeting” came at a time that Covid-19 cases are surging and hospitals are taking strain. The President gave no indication of when adjusted Level 3 Lockdown might be reviewed again.
He painted a grim picture with KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) recording the highest number of deaths in the country as well as a notable increase in new infections.
Ramaphsoa said infections in Gauteng were growing “exponentially” and were set to increase even more as holiday-makers returned home after the festive season.
He added that around a third of Covid-19 patients in hospitals are on oxygen and that the new strain of the coronavirus was driving infection numbers upwards.
Ramaphosa said the pandemic is now at its “most devastating” as the second wave of the has surpassed the first.
Funerals are ‘death-traps’
Under the amended Level 3 regulations most gatherings – including religious, cultural, and social gatherings – remain prohibited with funeral attendees limited to 50.
Speaking about funerals, which have been identified “time and time again” as superspreader events, he said he understood the cultural need to give people a dignified send-off.
“We are in the grip of a deadly pandemic and all those activities that would normally take place are just increasing our exposure to risk,” he said.
“There will be a time where we can go to the home of the deceased to pay our respects and sympathise properly he said,” but added: “funerals have become a death-trap for many of our people.”
On Monday, the South African Council of Churches (SACC) said they had called on the President to allow faith-based gatherings again.
General secretary of the SACC, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana had said that churches should be allowed to operate in the same way restaurants are allowed to operate, namely with a limited number of people.
Alcohol ban remains
The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.
The President cited the historic occurrence where the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital saw its trauma centre completely empty for the first time ever on New Year’s Day as proof that the alcohol ban was yielding results.
The Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) had asked that government lift the adjusted level 3 liquor ban and allow for alcohol to be sold to consumers to be enjoyed at home.
South African Breweries (SAB) said despite supporting measured alcohol restrictions, it would approach the courts to rule on the constitutionality of the ban on the sale of alcohol.
On Monday night, Ramaphosa again urged citizens to adhere to basic health protocols and avoid crowded space and said the curfew would remain in place, but adjusted from 9pm to 5am.
The President also announced the closure of the country’s land ports, including Beit Bridge and Masero which had been plagued by backlogs.
Travel for the transportation of essential goods or life-threatening consists would still be allowed, and South Africans aboard would still be able to enter the country.
The President urged South Africans not to feel helpless.
“Our actions do have an impact on the direction of the disease,” he noted.
“If we are to realise our aspirations for this year, we must do a number of things. We must unite to overcome the grave and persistent deepening crisis that our country faces and our people face,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the combination of urgent action on the part of each South African and a massive vaccine drive would allow the country to overcome the disease and its impact on the country’s economy.