Travel, but only if you must
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa announced only three changes to lockdown rules on Sunday night – and not the booze ban the alcohol industry had feared.
  • The third wave of coronavirus infections must be held back to allow the vaccine rollout to save lives, he said.
  • To do so, he called on South Africans to observe the existing rules, as well as consider how to minimise contact with others.
  • Here's what President Cyril Ramaphosa is asking of South Africans, including minimising travel.
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President Cyril Ramaphosa did not on Sunday night announce the booze ban that many in the alcohol industry had feared, instead saying only three – comparatively small – changes would be made to lockdown rules to hold back a third wave of coronavirus infections.

But he had a longer list of requests for South Africans.

"I ask you to summon your strength, your courage, and your tenacity as South Africans to stand together and to hold back this third wave," Ramaphosa said in the closing section of his address to the nation.

Ramaphosa did not, as he has done before, intimate that new lockdown restrictions may come if citizens failed to adhere to current rules. Instead he appealed directly for individuals to consider the life-of-death consequences of daily decisions.

"Delaying the spread of the virus is especially important now to allow as many people as possible to be vaccinated before the third wave reaches its peak," he said. 

"Every week that we delay the peak of the third wave allows us to vaccinate hundreds of thousands more people, and may well save their lives."

He announced three changes to current lockdown rules:

  • A curfew from 23:00 to 04:00.
  • A 22:00 closing time that applies to restaurants, bars, gyms, churches, and other venues.
  • A limit on all gatherings of 100 people indoors and 250 outdoors, or 50% of capacity for those too small to safely hold those maximum numbers.

But he urged citizens to go beyond just strict adherence to the rules such as wearing masks – stressing that not doing so is a criminal offence – and also "to think about all the people we come into contact with each day and do everything we can to limit those contacts."

Where social contact is unavoidable, masks, distance, and ventilation is important, he said.

"But wherever possible, we should cut down on our contacts during this time."

Specifically, Ramaphosa suggested:

  • Postponing social engagements.
  • Avoiding public spaces.
  • Only travelling when "absolutely necessary".
  • Avoiding indoor spaces, instead meeting even family members outdoors.
  • Special caution by the elderly and people with co-morbidities.
  • Helping people over 60 to register to be vaccinated.

Ramaphosa stressed the importance of both gatherings and travel in transmission of the coronavirus.

"We must remember that the virus does not move from place to place by itself; it relies on the movement of people," he said.

"The less we travel, the less the virus is spread."

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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