President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that further Covid-19 lockdown restrictions will be imposed in South Africa with immediate effect from midnight tonight (Monday).
Beaches in the Western Cape will however remain open over the festive season despite a recent spike in infection rates in the province.
Addressing the nation live on eNCA, Ramaphosa warned: “If we don’t do things differently this festive season we will greet the new year not with joy, but with sorrow. Unless we do things differently, this will be the last Christmas for many South Africans.”
The President started his address by saying there has been nearly 8000 new Covid-19 cases reported in the country over the last 24 hours.
“South Africa is getting very close to 900 000 cases, which is a cause for great concern. There can’t be any doubt the country has entered a second wave, and there’s every possibility that if we don’t act, the second wave will be more severe than the first,” he said.
Ramaphosa explained that from 3800 daily cases, SA now has around 7000 a day. Deaths have spiked from 100 daily, to 150.
He said gatherings, and parties are the largest source of outbreaks as social distancing is not being observed. Venues are overcrowded and not adequately ventilated, and people are not wearing masks.
“Many people are consuming alcohol at these super-spreader events and taking less care in protecting themselves,” he added.
The President mentioned that Ballito Rage led to 1000 young people from Gauteng testing positive for the virus.
“What we don’t know yet, is how many more people each of them have infected. 300 families could have been infected from this one event,” he said.
Ramaphosa said many people do not take precautions when they travel, and insisted that wearing a mask when using public transport and making sure windows are open at all times, is essential. This also means reducing the number of people when travelling to visit others.
According to the President, South Africans were more disciplined over Easter period when adhering to restrictions and basic health measures. He said this needs to happen again over the Christmas period.
Two more districts, Sarah Baartman and Garden Route, have been declared hotspots, he said, adding that the same restrictions as Nelson Mandela Bay will apply in those districts from midnight tonight.
The nation-wide restrictions include:
- Drivers and operators of public transport must ensure passengers are wearing masks. Managers of buildings, retail stores and shopping centres are obliged by law to ensure those who enter wear a mask. Employers must ensure all employees wear masks.
- Indoor gatherings restricted to 100 people, and 250 outdoors.
- All after-tears parties, prohibited.
- Beaches and parks will be closed from 16 December to 3rd January in Eastern Cape and Garden Route.
- In KwaZulu-Natal, beaches and public parks will be closed on 16 December, 25 & 26 December and 31 December, and also 1 to 3 January.
- Beaches in Western Cape will remain open.
- All members of Coronavirus Command Council will be on standby to assess and monitor the situation throughout festive season.
- Hours of curfew will be extended from 23:00 to 04:00.
- Non-essential establishments including restaurants and bars will have to close at 22:00, to allow staff and patrons to get home.
- Hours of curfew includes Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
- Retail alcohol sales only permitted between 10:00 and 18:00, Monday to Thursday. Wineries and wine farms may continue to offer tastings and sales over weekends.
He said failure to comply runs the risk of a fine or six months’ imprisonment and updated restrictions will be reviewed early in January next year.
Ramaphosa said full lockdown was necessary at the start of the pandemic to prepare health services, and delay the spread of virus.
“It won’t serve the same purpose now, and therefore we are not opting for that option again,” he said.
He added: “38 000 health workers have tested positive for Covid19, almost 5000 were hospitalised, and 391 in the public sector have died.
Ramaphosa explained: “There’s no point in wearing your mask on your chin, in your pocket, or to lower it to speak to someone.”
The President encouraged South Africans to work together to curb the spread of the virus and said vaccines will cover 10 percent of the population in the early part of 2021.
He wished the country a safe festive season, Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.