South African President Cyril Ramaphosa banned alcohol, outlawed public gatherings and closed schools to curb surging coronavirus infections.
The country will move to alert Level 4, the nation’s second-highest, from Level 3 with effect from midnight Sunday and the restrictions will remain for 14 days, Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.
Other restrictions include limiting travel to and from Gauteng, the nation’s commercial hub that’s been hardest-hit by a third wave of Covid-19 cases.
The tighter restrictions imperil South Africa’s recovery from its worst contraction in a century last year, when GDP shrank 7%.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News this month forecast that output may rebound faster than anticipated, with recurring lockdown measures one of the main risks to the outlook.
“We are in the grip of a devastating wave that by all indications seems like it will be worse than all those preceded it, its peak looks set to be higher than the previous waves.
“The measures we are putting in place now are designed to allow as much economic activity to continue as possible while containing the spread of the virus,” said Ramaphosa.
South Africa reported more than 90 000 new Covid-19 cases in the week through Sunday – the biggest increase since January, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Infections are being driven by the Delta variant that has devastated India and dealt a setback in the UK.
South Africa’s situation is being exacerbated by a slow vaccination campaign, with almost 2.7 million of the nation’s 60 million people either fully or partially inoculated.
Gauteng, a region that includes the capital of Pretoria and the commercial hub of Johannesburg, has borne the brunt of South Africa’s third wave of Covid-19 infections. Hospitals are at risk of reaching capacity within days.
The province accounts for more than two thirds of infections and has a new-case rate of 73 per 100 000 people, more than triple the national average of 23.2, according to National Institute for Communicable Diseases data.
With assistance from Renee Bonorchis and Rene Vollgraaff.
© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.