President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday evening that South Africa would be moving to an adjusted level 3 lockdown as of midnight.
He addressed the nation a day after the country breached the 1 million confirmed Covid-19 cases mark.
In his so-called family meeting, Ramaphosa said there was little cause for celebration as the country prepared to enter 2021.
“Unless we act now, and unless we act decisively, the number of new infections will far exceed what we experienced in the first wave,” Ramaphosa said.
Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, had said on Monday that the second wave of Covid-19 infections was being driven by festive season laxness and that most of the new infections were of the new Covid-19 strain.
ALSO READ: We have to invest in behaviour change
Ramaphosa confirmed that the majority of new cases were emanating from the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal, with an alarming increase in Limpopo.
“This is a time of heightened danger in the face of a rising global pandemic,” Ramaphosa said, adding that super-spreader events were to blame, including social gatherings.
“We have simply let our guard down and unfortunately, we are now paying the price,” he said noting laxness in basic protocols like wearing masks, distancing, and sanitising.
The President said the consumption of alcohol in restaurants, bars, and taverns has contributed to the spread of the virus and driven up trauma cases in hospitals.
“Our hospitals – both private and public hospitals – are already close to full capacity in a number of provinces and ICU beds are either full already or rapidly filling up,” he said, noting that Eastern Cape hospital admissions had exceeded numbers registered in the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition, more than 40,000 health workers have been infected with the virus themselves.
In unpacking the adjusted level 3 regulations, Ramaphsoa said the aim was to limit super-spreader events, decrease unsafe interactions between people, increase the implementation of key intervention measures, and lessen the burden on the health care system.
The new regulations include the following:
- All indoor and outdoor gatherings are prohibited for 14 days, except for funerals and some limited exceptions like restaurants, gyms, museums, and casinos for which regulations will be set out.
- Funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people, with social distancing.
- Business premises need to determine the maximum number of people allowed at any given time based on distancing guidelines.
- The curfew has been extended from 9pm until 6am, other than for essential service workers.
- Bars, restaurants, and “cultural venues” need to close at 8pm with further guidelines as to which establishments fall in this category to be provided.
- Private citizens will be held liable for not wearing a mask in public and can be arrested with a potential fine and/or prison sentence of up to six months being imposed.
Ramaphosa noted that the alcohol industry was a major job creator, but said government has to act in the interest of protecting citizens and the health care system.
“We now have to flatten the curve to protect the capacity of our health care system.” Ramaphosa said in announcing that the sale of alcohol was not to be permitted, with the distribution and transportation of alcohol also being banned.
Ramaphosa said the amended level 3 regulations will keep the economy open while strengthening measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
The regulations are to be reviewed on 15 January 2021, based on the state of the pandemic in the country.
Ramaphosa said hotspot areas would face increased restrictions until infection numbers lower and announced four more hotspots in the Eastern Cape, six in KwaZulu-Natal, five in the Western Cape, one in North West, two in Limpopo, and four in Gauteng, including the major metros of Tshwane and Johannesburg.
All beaches, rivers, dams, lakes, public parks, and public pools in hotspot areas will be closed as of Tuesday.
National and provincial parks in other areas that can access control measures in place will remain open.
“Those living in hotpot districts are strongly advised and encouraged to minimise their travel in the district to essential travel,” Ramaphosa said, adding that travel to hotspot districts should be avoided as much as possible.
The President confirmed that the country is set to receive its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines in the second quarter of 2021.
“This virus is real,” warned Ramaphosa as he cautioned the youth to not let their guard down.
“Many of those who have been infected with the virus, or who have lost their friends of family in recent months, will tell you how much they regret not taking the precautions that have been so well advertised when they had the chance,” Ramaphosa said.
He added: “We all have plans and hopes and dreams for 2021,” noting that the most simple wish would be for health in the new year.