In his latest “family meeting” on Monday evening, the president said the country is slowly inching up to the 900 000 infection mark, with current confirmed cases standing at 866 127.
“Unless we do things differently, this will be the last Christmas for many South Africans,” Ramaphosa warned, before announcing the latest set of measures meant to curb the spread of the virus.
More districts declared hotspots
After declaring the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro a Covid-19 hotspot eleven days ago, the Eastern Cape’s Sarah Baartman district, as well as the Garden Route were added to the list, with the same emergency measures being effective for both as of midnight on Monday evening.
- A stricter curfew from 10pm to 4am,
- Alcohol sales will be restricted from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Thursday,
- Alcohol consumption in public spaces is prohibited to prevent large gatherings,
- Gatherings, including religious gatherings are now restricted to 100 people indoor and 250 outdoor, and
- After funeral gatherings are prohibited.
Stricter enforcement of regulations nationwide
Further restrictions which will come into effect nationwide, with immediate effect also include:
- Stricter enforcement of alert level 1 restrictions, which includes the requirement that any form of public transport and managers of public buildings ensuring the enforcement of mask rules. Employers must also ensure that employees wear masks while performing duties.
- Taking measures to reduce risk of super-spreader events.
This means that gatherings, including religious events, may not exceed a capacity of 200 people outdoors, while the number of attendees for outdoor events is restricted to 150 people. No gatherings are to exceed 50% of the capacity of a venue and proper ventilation and demonstrable social distancing measures and sanitisers are a must.
After tears parties for funerals are also prohibited.Beaches and public and national parks will be allowed to remain open between 9:00 and 18:00, with the exception of those in the Eastern Cape and Garden Route. Those in areas with high infection rates will, however, be closed between 16 December and 15 January.Beaches in KZN will also be forced to close on the season’s busiest days, which are 16, 25, 26, and 31 December until 3 January.
Beaches and parks of the NC and WC will remain open to the public, but all festivals and live music events are prohibited. Poor compliance will lead to specific beaches and parks being closed.
- Sure to be the most contentious regulation is that super-spreader events will be prohibited, while the sale of alcohol will also be more strictly regulated.
A nationwide curfew will be implemented between 11pm to 4am. Non-essential services must close at 10pm, to enable staff to make it home before curfew.
This curfew applies to Christmas and New Year’s Eve as well, meaning no late parties.
The sale of alcohol will once again be restricted to between 10:00 and 18:00 Monday to Thursday, with the exception of wineries and wine farms, which will be allowed to continue selling alcohol for off-site consumption even over weekends.
Ramaphosa said this exception was made due to the contribution these places make to the tourism industry
Super-spreader events to blame for massive increase in infections, deaths
Of most concern to the president was the fact that the infection rate in the past seven days were 70% higher than during the preceding week, while deaths have also increased by nearly 50% per day, compared to the seven days before.
“We’re getting very close to 900 000 and we’ll soon hit a million. These figures are cause for great concern. There can no longer be any doubt that South Africa has entered a second wave of coronavirus infections,” the president cautioned, saying that unless drastic action is taken, the second wave could be much deadlier than the first.
The provinces leading the charge in new infections are the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng, with most new infections occurring in the age group of 15 to 19 years.
The recent Rage matric parties contributed a large number of infections, with at least 1 000 youngster from Gauteng testing positive, after having attended these events.
The rise in infections has also been attributed to the increase in super-spreader events and parties, which Ramaphosa attributed to South Africans getting “into the Christmas or festive spirit early”.
The president warned, however, that the following few weeks pose “the greatest threat to the health and wellness of our nation. It also poses the greatest threat to our economic recovery”.
Time to protect our healthcare workers
Ramaphosa said more than 38 000 healthcare workers have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic, with more than 5 000 admitted to hospitals and 391 having passed away.
“As we confront the second wave of infections, we must do everything we can to support and protect our healthcare workers,” he said, imploring South Africans to keep their celebrations small and avoid being in large crowds.
Vaccines to arrive soon
The president promised that South Africa has concluded all necessary processes to ensure participation in the WHO’s Covax-programme, which will ensures equitable access to vaccines for all developing countries.
South Africa is expected to receive its initial order of vaccines early next year, and this will be enough to cover 10% of the population.
Other initiatives are also in play, such as the African Union’s Covid-19 vaccine task team, and private partnerships, to explore alternative measures to source vaccines beyond the Covax programme.