Topline: “If we don’t do things differently, this will be the last Christmas for many South Africans,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, addressing the nation on Monday evening, as he announced more restrictions, some “with immediate effect”.
● South Africa is officially in its second wave, said president Ramaphosa during a live broadcast. On December 3, the country recorded over 4,400 new cases. Ten days later, South Africa recorded nearly 8,000 new cases. The cumulative number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa now stands at over 860,000.
● Ramaphosa said this figure is of “great concern” for the country.
● “Given the rate at which new cases have grown over the last two weeks, there is every possibility that if we do not act urgently and if we do not act together, the second wave will be more severe than the first wave,” he said.
● Furthermore, in a short amount of time, the daily average of coronavirus deaths has increased by nearly 50%. A figure that previously sat at 100 deaths a day is now over 150 deaths.
● The four provinces in South Africa that are leading the second wave are the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng.
● The reasons behind the increase vary from health protocols (no social distancing or masks being worn) not being followed to super-spreader events like large gatherings being held.
● “We have gotten into the Christmas spirit early and are inviting friends and family over for get-togethers,” Ramaphosa said. “Yet, it is our failure to closely adhere to all these basic precautions at all times that has brought us to this second wave.”
Key changes made by the South African government to contain the spread of the virus.
● Beaches and public parks in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route in the Western Cape will be closed for the duration of the festive season from December 16 to January 3. In KZN, beaches and public parks will be closed for what are traditionally the busiest days of the holiday season.
● The curfew will start at 11PM and end at 4AM. Restaurants and bars will have to close at 10PM so that staff and patrons can get home before the enforcement of the curfew.
● Alcohol sales will also be restricted. Retail outlets are only permitted to sell alcohol between 10AM and 6PM from Monday to Thursday. However, registered wineries and wine farms may continue to offer tastings and wine sales to the public for off-site consumption over weekends. Alcohol consumption in all public spaces, such as beaches and parks, is strictly forbidden.
“If we do not do things differently this festive season, we will greet the new year not with joy, but with sorrow. Many of our friends, relatives, and co-workers will be infected, some will get severely ill and some, tragically, will die… It is therefore essential that we take extraordinary measures to contain the second wave and save lives while working to protect livelihoods,” Ramaphosa said.
In addition to enforcing stricter nationwide enforcement of existing lockdown alert level 1 restrictions, the president also announced that South Africa had concluded all the necessary processes to participate in the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility (COVAX).
“As part of this facility, it is expected that South Africa will receive initial vaccines to cover 10% of our population in the early part of next year,” Ramaphosa said.