South Africa extended tight COVID-19 rules on Sunday for another 14 days, maintaining restrictions that include a ban on gatherings, a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. and a prohibition on the sale of alcohol.
The country, the worst-hit on the African continent in terms of recorded cases and deaths, is in the grip of a third wave of infections driven by the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant.
“Our health system countrywide remains under pressure,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.
Early this month South Africa recorded a new record of more than 26,000 daily cases, stretching hospitals to breaking point.
Ramaphosa moved the country to the fourth level of a five-tier restriction scale in late June as infections climbed, promising to review the restrictions after two weeks.
On Sunday he said the cabinet had decided to maintain “adjusted alert level 4” for another 14 days, but restaurants would be able to operate again subject to strict health protocols. Gyms would also be allowed to reopen under certain conditions.
Ramaphosa added that a government advisory committee was working on how soon the country could bring Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine into the Covid-19 immunisation programme.
Ramaphosa added that there was no justification for violence in the wake of former president Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment, and unrest was “damaging our efforts to rebuild the economy” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“While there are those who may be hurt and angry at this moment, there can never be any justification for such violent, destructive and disruptive actions,” Ramaphosa said.