By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will move back to lockdown level 3, taking effect from midnight tonight.
In an address this evening, emotional Ramaphosa said that the move is being done to limit super-spreader events further, and will adjust previous level 3 regulations to keep the economy as open as possible.
It will also allow government to focus on the social distancing measures, and aims to ease the pressure on hospitals.
The change follows meetings held by the president and his cabinet as part of the National Coronavirus Command Council on Sunday, and come as the country surpasses 1 million cumulative Covid-19 infections and record daily increases.
"Nearly 27,000 South African are known to have died from Covid-19. The number of new coronovirus infections are increasing at an alarming rate. Infections are surging in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng. Infections are alarmingly on the rise in Limpopo, "Ramaphosa siad.
"Infections are on the rise, in part, because we as humans are social beings. We feel the need to visit friends and family, attend religious services, and go to parties. But this is a time of danger, " He warned.
Infections are being driven by super spreader events, the president said, which include year-end functions, family gatherings and music and cultural events.
"This is where infections happen most. This is cause for alarm, and points to an extreme lack of vigilance. We have let our guard down, and we are now paying the price," he said. Venues are also being over-crowded, and social distancing and prevention protocols are not being followed.
Sale of alcohol
"One of the more difficult areas of regulation relates to the sale of alcohol," the president said. "The liquor industry is a major employer and an important contributor to our economy. Our priority at this time, however, must be to save lives," he said.
The president said that the consumption of alcohol has exacerbated the stress put on healthcare facilities, driving up the number of trauma cases in hospitals.
Worryingly, hospitals are reporting being at, or close to maximum capacity – while healthcare workers are exhausted and becoming infected in higher numbers. "They are almost at breaking point," the president said. "All because of our actions, and failure to take responsibility. Unless we act now, and act decisively…thousands of more people will lose their lives."
Night clubs and businesses engaged in the sale and transportation of liquor will not be allowed to operate. The Level 3 restrictions will remain in place until 15 January 2021," Ramaphosa said.
These regulations may be reviewed within the next few weeks if we see a sustained decline in infections and hospital admissions, "Ramaphosa said.
Under the new lockdown level 3, the following takes effect:
- All indoor and outdoor gatherings will be prohibited for 14 days, with an exception to funerals and places like restaurants and gyms. These exceptions will be clarified in the official regulations.
- Nationwide curfew will be extended to 21h00 to 06h00. Aside from essential services, no one will be permitted to be out during this time. All establishments will close at 20h00, with a more specific list to be published soon.
- Every individual will be responsible, legally, for wearing a mask in public. It is now compulsory for every person to wear a mask in a public place. Violators will be guilty of an offence, and could be prosecuted. They could be liable for a fine or imprisonment, or both.
- Alcohol sales from retail outlets and onsite consumption are banned. The prohibition on the public consumption of alcohol remains.
- Businesses will continue to operate, subject to guidelines. Nightclubs and businesses that rely on alcohol sales will not be allowed to operate.
- All beaches, dams, rivers and public parks and public pools in hotspot areas will be closed to the public.
- These measures will be in place until 15 January 2021, at which time they will be reviewed based on the situation, Ramaphosa said.
A notable change is that, from midnight, it is compulsory for every person to wear a mask in a public space. A person who does not wear a cloth mask covering over the nose and mouth in a public place will be committing an offence.
A person who does not wear a mask could be arrested and prosecuted. On conviction, they will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and imprisonment.
This is a drastic measure but is now necessary to ensure compliance with the most basic of preventative measures, the president said.
People living and moving within hotspot areas are recommended to keep travel as limited as possible.
The following areas have been declared hotspot regions:
- Eastern Cape: Sarah Baartman, Chris Hani, Buffalo City, Nelson Mandela Bay, Amathole, OR Tambo, Alfred Nzo.
- KwaZulu-Natal: eThekwini, Umgungundlovu, Ugu, Harry Gwala, Ilembe, King Cetshwayo.
- Gauteng: West Rand, Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni.
- Western Cape: the West Coast District, Overberg District, Winelands District, Cape Town, Central Karoo District are hotspots. This is in addition to the Garden Route District.
- North West: Bojanala District.
- Limpopo: the Waterberg District and the Capricorn District.
He said those living in the hotspot districts are strongly encouraged to minimise their travel within the district to essential travel so as to minimise contact with other people.
"Travel to hotspot districts should be avoided if possible. The stark reality is that every single district in this country has the potential to become a hotspot unless we observe the current preventative measures, "the President said.