South Africa lockdown second wave Covid-19 Ramapho
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the nation on developments in relation to the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. [Photo: GCIS]
  • A second wave of infections driven by a new Covid-19 variant has forced harsher restrictions on South Africa.
  • A ban on alcohol sales, earlier curfews, compulsory mask wearing and revised limitations on social gatherings have been announced by President Ramaphosa on Monday evening.
  • A ban on beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks, and public swimming pools in hotspot areas has also been implemented.
  • South Africa has a long list of new hotspots, in addition.
  • The ‘adjusted’ Level 3 lockdown regulations take effect from Tuesday and will be reviewed on 15 January 2021.
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South Africa will be subjected to “adjusted” Level 3 lockdown regulations amid a surge of Covid-19 infections. Bans on social gatherings, an earlier curfew, and limitations on the sale of alcohol were among some of the strictest measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday.

The festive season, already dampened due to a sudden rise in Covid cases, has come to an early end for South Africans. With 50,000 infections recorded since Christmas eve, coupled with the recent discovery of a more infectious Covid-19 variant, Ramaphosa elaborated on restrictive measures decided in consultation with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

Before revealing the raft of new restrictions intended to act as a hard circuit breaker to stem the second wave, Ramaphosa cited non-compliance with current regulations as a key cause for the coronavirus’ resurgence.

“There is little cause for celebration this year,” lamented Ramaphosa. “We have let our guard down and we are now paying the price.”

He declared new hotspots areas:

  • In the Eastern Cape - Chris Hani District, Buffalo City, Amathole District, Alfred Nzo District and the OR Tambo District. These are in addition to Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and the Sarah Baartman District, which have already been declared hotspots.
  • In the Western Cape - the West Coast District, Overberg District, Winelands District, Cape Town, Central Karoo District. This is in addition to the Garden Route District.
  • In KwaZulu-Natal - eThekwini, Umgungundlovu District, Ugu District, Harry Gwala District, King Cetshwayo District and Ilembe District.  
  • In Gauteng - the West Rand District, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg are declared hotspots. 
  • In the North West - Bojanala District
  • In Limpopo - the Waterberg District and the Capricorn District.

While all the new "adjusted" Level 3 lockdown regulations are yet to be detailed, Ramaphosa announced that the following will come into effect on midnight on Monday:

Ban on alcohol sales

The sale, distribution and transportation of alcohol will be prohibited. Restaurants and bars won't be permitted to sell alcohol at all. 

The immense strain on healthcare resources – particularly in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal – has hampered to fight against Covid-19. With many Intensive Care Units (ICU) in both public and private facilities nearing full capacity, the need to preserve medical resources for Covid-19 treatment has reached a critical point.

Ramaphosa reiterated that alcohol-related trauma, specifically drunk driving, and violence during the festive season, had overburdened South Africa’s emergency units.

“Excessive alcohol consumption is driving up the number of trauma cases in our hospitals,” said Ramaphosa. “These trauma cases from bullet wounds, stabbings, motor vehicle accidents and many others are putting an unnecessary strain on our already stressed health facilities.”

Extended curfew

Across the whole country, the new curfew will be between 21:00 and 06:00. Non-essential establishments, including restaurants and bars, must close at 20:00.

Festive season revelry has done little to fight the second wave of infection. Although the national curfew was recently extended to 23:00 – with hotspot areas even earlier at 22:00 – until 04:00, non-compliance has added to the increased risk of late-night super-spreader-events.

Ramaphosa said the new curfew must minimise dangerous social gatherings, which, coupled with alcohol consumption, posed a serious risk for both transmission and reckless behaviour further straining healthcare resources.

Ban on indoor and outdoor events

All indoor and outdoor events will be prohibited for two weeks, with exceptions to be detailed by the relevant ministers in the Disaster Management Act.

“All indoor and outdoor gatherings will be prohibited for 14 days from the date hereof, except for funerals and other limited exceptions as detailed in the regulations, such as restaurants, museums, gyms and casinos,” explained Ramaphosa.

Jail or fine for not wearing a mask in public

It is compulsory to wear a mask in a public space. Anyone who does not wear a mask is committing an offence and can be arrested. Offenders can face up to six months in prison or a fine, or both.

“From now on it is compulsory for every person to wear a mask in a public space,” said Ramaphosa. “A person who does not wear a cloth mask covering over the nose and mouth in a public place will be committing an offence.”

Previously, only businesses and building owners faced sanction if someone on their premises didn't wear a mask.

Closure of beaches, dams, rivers, and public swimming pools in hotspots

Covid-19 hotspots across several municipalities in six provinces – including the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, North West and Limpopo – will be subjected to harsher restrictions, particularly with regards to public spaces.

“As the infections continue to rise, Cabinet on the advice of the National Coronavirus Command Council, has decided that all beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks and public swimming pools in hotspot areas will be closed to the public with effect from tomorrow,” explained Ramaphosa.

Other Level 3 restrictions

South Africa was in Level 3 from the beginning of June this year to mid-August.

During that time, no interprovincial travel was allowed (unless under strict conditions). But while Ramaphosa said that travel to hotspot district should be avoided, he did not specify any restrictions on travel on Monday evening.

He also stressed that businesses - apart from those that transport alcohol - would not be barred from operating. During Level 3 in the past, hairdressers, gyms were not allowed to operate, and hotels also had to remain closed. While new regulations are still pending, it is assumed that these may still be allowed to operate during SA's new "adjusted" Level 3.

And while the sale of cigarettes was also illegal during South Africa's previous Level 3 - no mention was made of a tobacco sales ban on Monday.

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