South Africa imposed further Covid-19 restrictions on Monday, closing down beaches on the eastern coast and limiting large public gatherings ahead of the festive season, as the country looks to slow a sharp rise in infections.
South Africa, which has recorded 866,127 total coronavirus cases, has seen a sharp spike in infections since the start of December with reported cases hovering around 8,000 per day in last few days, from around 3,000 in November.
The country’s reported daily cases in the first wave peaked at around 14,000 in July.
“Given the rate at which new cases have grown over the last two weeks, there is every possibility that if we do not act urgently … the second wave will be more severe than the first wave,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address.
Alcohol sales will now be permitted only between Monday and Thursday, and the curfew will start one hour earlier and be from 11PM to 4AM, he said.
Ramaphosa said the main reasons for the sudden rise in cases have been large gatherings and travel.
“Gatherings – especially social gatherings and parties – are the largest source of outbreaks,” said Ramaphosa.
“The sad truth about this pandemic is that festivals, concerts and parties – which should be occasions for fun and joy – are proving to be sources of infection and illness, and may even lead to deaths.”
He said the current restrictions on the size of gatherings were not doing enough.
“Therefore, gatherings – including religious gatherings – may not be attended by more than 100 people for indoor events and 250 for outdoor events.
He said, in many such gatherings, social distancing was not observed, crowded venues were not properly ventilated, hand sanitiser was not readily available, and people were not wearing masks.
“Many people consume alcoholic drinks at these super-spreader events, with the result that people become less careful about taking measures to protect themselves and prevent infection,” he said.
He held up the recent post-matric Rage Festival event in Ballito as “a harsh reminder of how dangerous large gatherings can be”.
“We now know that nearly 1,000 young people from Gauteng, who attended the event, have tested positive for the coronavirus. What we don’t yet know is how many more people each of them has infected. It is said that up to 300 families could, in turn, have been infected,” he said.
Beaches and public parks in districts with the highest number of infections will be closed from December 16 to January 3 in the tourism hotspots of the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route.
Some other beaches will also be closed and on others festivals, live music and live performances will be prohibited, he said. Restaurants and bars will have to close by 10PM across the country.
The sweeping restrictions just before the festive season will batter the hospitality, travel and tourism industry which was the hardest hit in the first lockdown in April.
Ramaphosa said South Africa has concluded all processes to ensure its participation in the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility and initial vaccines will cover 10 percent of its population in the early part of next year. Reuters.