Topline: South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the nation on Sunday evening on developments in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his announcement, the president said that the country would be moving to alert level 2 from Monday.
- When last the president addressed the nation, two months ago, it was to mildly put in place restrictions for the Easter weekend in April.
- The president told the country on Sunday that this move to alert level two is urgent and necessary. It is about beating the third wave before it reaches it peak, Ramaphosa said. He further warned that the increase in daily cases is following the same trajectory as it did at the start of the previous two waves. This is a concern as in other countries the consequence of allowing the virus to spread unchecked was calamitous.
- South Africa has seen an increase of 31% positive cases this week and 66% increase on the week before that. This is mostly due to the increasing number of social gatherings where people are not observing essential health protocols. Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Gauteng have reached the threshold of a third wave of infections.
- “We are advised that a positivity rate of over 5 per cent is a cause for concern…It may only be a matter of time before the country as a whole will have entered a third wave,” he said.
Crucial Changes in Restrictions
- The hours of curfew will start at 11pm (as opposed to midnight) and end at 4am.
- Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres will need to close by 10pm.
- All gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. This includes religious services, political events and social gatherings, as well as restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places.
- At the start of May, South Africa started its second phase of the country’s three-phase vaccination program.
- When phase one began on 17 February, South Africa wanted to reach 1.25 million healthcare workers will be vaccinated in total, with 500 000 vaccinated by mid-May and the remaining approximately 600 000 vaccinated during phase 2 of the vaccine rollout.
- Phase two is about prioritizing around 16.5 million South Africans based on age and other vulnerable sections of the population.
- Ramaphosa stated that more than 67% of health workers have been vaccinated. Over the last two weeks, over 480,000 people have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine as part of the public vaccination campaign. In total so far over 960,000 people in South Africa have received one vaccine dose
- “As the African continent, we are pushing ahead with efforts to expand our vaccine manufacturing capacity with a view to being self-sufficient in vaccine production. We are also part of the global effort to ensure that all countries have access to sufficient vaccines as a matter of urgency,” Ramaphosa said.
“However, we need to delay the increase in infections for as long as we can to allow more of our most vulnerable citizens to be protected,” the president said in his address to the nation. “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.”