Prepare for a subdued Christmas. This was the message from President Cyril Ramaphosa as he reintroduced tighter controls following a rapid rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths over the past few weeks, after several “super-spreader” events.
Ramaphosa, in an address on Monday, cautioned that given the rate of new infections over the last two weeks, there was a possibility that if the government did not act urgently “the second wave will be more severe than the first wave”.
He pointed to events where young people gather as one of the drivers of the spike in infections.
“The recent post-matric Rage Festival event in Ballito is a harsh reminder of how dangerous large gatherings can be,” he said.
“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.”
The following restrictions have been enforced with immediate effect:
- Curfew from 23:00 to 04:00 (the curfew will not apply to essential workers);
- Restaurants and taverns will have to close by 22:00
- Alcohol sales will be restricted to between 10:00 and 18:00 Monday to Thursday;
- Alcohol consumption in all public spaces, such as beaches and parks, is strictly forbidden;
- Religious gatherings limited to 100 indoor, 250 outdoor;
- The total number of people in a venue may not exceed more than 50% of the capacity of the venue; and
- Post-funeral gatherings are now prohibited.
When it comes to beaches, the government took a “differentiated approach” where all beaches in the Eastern Cape as well as those in the Garden Route District in the Western Cape will be closed from December 16 to January 3.
In KwaZulu-Natal, beaches will be closed on December 16, 25, 26 and 31 as well as January 1, 2 and 3.
“The beaches and public parks in Northern Cape and the Western Cape – with the exception of the Garden Route – will remain open to the public over the festive season.”
The increase in infections will see the Sarah Baartman District and the Garden Route District fall under the same more restrictive restrictions that were imposed on Nelson Mandela Bay almost two weeks ago.
Aside from tighter restrictions, the president said there would also be stricter enforcement of existing Level 1 Covid-19 regulations. If businesses do not enforce the regulations, business owners could face harsh penalties.
“The responsible individuals who do not ensure compliance with the regulations by their passengers, customers or employees will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment of up to six months.”
Ramaphosa also called on South Africans to do their bit to combat the spread of the deadly virus by wearing a mask properly.
“There is no point wearing a mask on your chin, keeping it in your pocket or lowering it to speak to someone.”
There was little new news as to when a vaccine will be distributed in SA, aside from Ramaphosa saying that the country has concluded “all the necessary processes to ensure its participation in the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility”.
The initial vaccines are expected cover 10% of the population in the early part of next year.
The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team has been set up and is looking at innovative partnerships with the private sector to ensure that South Africans have access to an effective vaccine that is suitable for our conditions.
Despite these initiatives, Ramaphosa warned that there is still a long road ahead.
“The next few weeks are going to be a great test of our determination and restraint.”