By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has extended South Africa’s level 4 lockdown for another 14 days, with restrictions remaining in place until 25 July.
In a national address this evening, Ramaphosa said that the last two weeks of restrictions were necessary to curb the third wave of infections in South Africa which has been caused by the Delta variant of Covid-19.
"Our health system countrywide remains under pressure. By next week, daily hospital admissions across the country are likely to reach the levels observed during the peak of the first two waves.Covid-19 related deaths in hospitals are also increasing, and have surpassed those observed at the peak of the first wave," the president said.
While Gauteng is still the epicentre of these infections, Ramaposa said that cases are now surging in other provinces with the healthcare sector increasingly under strain. Infections are rapidly increasing in the Western Cape, Limpopo, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, he said.
As a result, the president said that Cabinet after consultation with the provinces has decided to maintain the country at adjusted alert level 4 for an additional two weeks.
The following restrictions will remain in place:
- The evening curfew remains in place from 21h00 – 04h00, and only those with permission to do so may leave their homes during this time;
- All social, religious, and political gatherings remain prohibited;
- Schools will remain closed until 26 July;
- The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.
However, Ramaphosa said that some restrictions will be eased for some businesses. These include:
- Restaurants and eateries will be able to operate as normal while observing strict protocols – Such establishments may not accommodate more than 50 people at a time or, for smaller venues, more than 50% of their normal capacity;
- Certain other venues such as gyms and fitness centres may also reopen;
- Agricultural activities such as livestock auctions will be permitted.
Ramaphosa said that Cabinet has decided that all business licenses and permits that expired between March 2020 and June 2021 will remain valid until 31 December 2022.
South Africa reported 16,302 new cases on Sunday, taking the total number of active reported cases to 208,709.
Up to 53,653 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours which represents a 30.4% positivity rate. A further 151 Covid-19 related deaths have been reported, taking total fatalities to 64,289 to date.
Turning attention to the country’s vaccination programme, Ramaphosa said this was expanding.
To date, over 4.2 million people in South Africa have received a vaccine dose, with one million of these having been done over the past seven weekdays.
"The pace of vaccination has more than doubled in the last month, and will continue to increase," he said.
Presently, South Africa was on average inoculating 190 000 each weekday.
Ramaphosa said government and the private sector were working together in an unprecedented way to build additional capacity to vaccinate many more people a day.
Currently, the vaccination programme is administering jabs on the 60+ and 50+ age groups.
From Thursday, the over 35 age group will be able to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System and begin getting vaccinations on 1 August.
The programme was also inoculating essential workers in basic education, the police and the defence force.
"We are working to ensure that vaccination sites are located closer to where people live to make it easier for them. We will continue to work with community, religious and traditional leaders to mobilise communities to get vaccinated," the President said.
Plans are in place in all provinces to expand many sites to vaccinate either six or seven days of the week.
Ramaphosa also welcomed Saphra’s approval of the Sinovac vaccine.
"The Vaccine Advisory Committee is working on how soon we can bring CoronaVac into the vaccination programme," he said.
The 'Sinovac Vaccine' is the popular name given to the CoronaVac Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Sinovac Life Sciences of China.