President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has tightened restrictions on alcohol sales, extended a night-time curfew and reduced the permitted attendance at public gatherings as the country grapples with a third wave of coronavirus infections.
The President disclosed the new restricitions in a televised address to the country on Tuesday night. In his address he remarked that alcohol sales for offsite consumption will only be allowed from Monday to Thursday, a move aimed at reducing pressure on hospital trauma wards.
The new measures include moving the country to virus alert level 3 from level 2, reducing the maximum size of gatherings to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors, while pleading that people remain home between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Ramaphosa admits he knows the people “… have grown impatient with the constraints that have been placed on lives, (but) if we act too late or our response is too weak, we risk losing control of the virus. The measures we are putting in place now are appropriate to the level of risk and necessary to save the lives of our people.”
The seven-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases in South Africa has climbed to about 7,500, from fewer than 800 early in April, while hospital admissions have surged particularly in the central Gauteng province which accounts for two-thirds of new infections. A vaccination campaign has been slow to get underway, with less than 2 million either fully or partially inoculated out of a population of about 60 million people.
The roll-out of the shots was delayed by protracted negotiations with manufacturers, production problems at a plant in the U.S. and the predominance of the so-called beta variant in the country, which proved somewhat resistant to the version developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford.
Ramaphosa says “about 80,000 people are now being vaccinated at 570 sites daily, and the government will target reaching 250,000 soon as more shots become available”.
“We know that as difficult as the last 15 months have been, we have started to recover and rebuild. Although we have reason to hope, we still have a mountain to climb,” he concluded.