Topline: South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the nation from the Union Buildings in Pretoria on why the country will now move from Lockdown Alert level 2 to level 3. The announcement came the night before Youth Day, when the country observes the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising of June 1976.
- The President, who had placed the country on Alert level 2 16 days ago, announced that most of the provinces are either experiencing the third wave or foresee a third wave approaching. Aside from the Northern Cape, numbers have increased significantly in all other provinces in South Africa. Gauteng, according to Ramaphosa, currently has the highest recorded Covid-19 cases.
- South Africa has been in “alert level” lockdown for just over 15 months which has affected its economy. However, Ramaphosa is adamant that this move to alert level 3 is necessary as there has been an increase in cases since he last addressed the nation.
- “It is understandable that many South Africans now feel tired and weary,” Ramaphosa said. “We have never experienced a health crisis of this severity before, nor one so prolonged.”
- South Africa is currently experiencing an average of 7,500 daily infections. Hospital admissions due to Covid-19 over the last 14 days are 59% higher than the preceding 14 days. The average number of people who die from COVID-19 each day has increased by 48% in the past seven days.
Crucial Changes in Restrictions
- “Basic changes in behaviour can make a huge difference,” Ramaphosa said.
- The hours of curfew will start at 10pm (as opposed to midnight) and end at 4am.
- Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centers will need to close by 10pm.
- The sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption will only be permitted between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday.
- 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.
- There have been some “setbacks” in the vaccine front in South Africa. Ramaphosa announced that scientists discovered that the AstraZeneca vaccine that was procured from the Serum Institute of India (SII) did not provide sufficient protection against the variant that is predominant in South Africa.
- After the AstraZeneca setback, Ramaphosa stated that the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine appeared to be the best option for the country as it protects against the variant “because it requires only a single dose and is easier to store and transport”. However, the supply of the J&J vaccines was held up by an investigation into the contamination of ingredients at a supplier factory in Baltimore in the United States.
- South Africa has also “adversely” been affected by shortages in the global supply of vaccines, which has hampered vaccination programs across Africa and in many other low-and middle-income countries.
- “Until now, our mass vaccination program has therefore had to rely on the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses,” the president said.
“Fifteen months ago, as I addressed the nation from the Union Buildings, I said: ‘This epidemic will pass’,” Ramaphosa said. “…After all the time that has passed, after everything we have experienced, after everything we have done and achieved as a nation, these words still ring true.”