President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will be entering an adjusted level 3 lockdown, effective as of midnight.
This follows a second wave which has resulted in South Africa seeing daily new case numbers which are comparable to the peak of the country’s first wave.
He cited four reasons for the decision to move South Africa to an adjusted level 3 lockdown:
- To minimise risk of super-spreader events.
- To decrease unsafe interactions between people.
- To increase the implementation of five key prevention measures – social distancing, masks, hand hygiene, symptom checking, and testing.
- To decrease the burden on healthcare services so that resources can be redirected to meet the needs of COVID-19 and other patients.
“Unless we act now and unless we act decisively, the number of new infections will far exceed what we experienced in the first wave, and thousands more people will lose their lives,” added Ramaphosa.
As part of the adjusted level 3 lockdown, the wearing of masks has now been rendered compulsory for all citizens of South Africa, and failure to abide by this will result in South Africans being subject to a fine, imprisonment for up to 6 months, or both.
“I must admit that this is a drastic measure, but it is now necessary to ensure compliance with the most basic of preventative measures,” said Ramaphosa.
The president also announced that all indoor and outdoor gatherings will be prohibited for 14 days beginning at midnight, with certain exceptions such as funerals.
These funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people, and must have all appropriate social distancing in place.
Ramaphosa also asked all businesses to determine the minimum number of staff they require to be working from their physical premises, and to allow all other employees to work from home.
The national curfew has also been extended to be in place from 21:00 until 6:00, with all non-essential establishments – including retailers – to close at 20:00.
Government has also reintroduced a full ban on alcohol sales – both in stores and for on-site consumption – while the consumption of alcohol in public areas is also no longer permitted.
Ramaphosa noted that the alcohol industry is a core player in the South African economy, but said that the safety of South Africans is too important not to make these changes.
Hospitals under pressure
Ramaphosa noted that hospitals are under severe pressure due in large part to alcohol-related incidents.
“Alcohol is causing risky behaviour, and driving up the use of hospital beds. Trauma cases have increased due to alcohol usage – including bullet wounds, stabbings, and car crashes,” said Ramaphosa.
“Hospitals – both private and public – are already close to full capacity in a number of provinces and ICU beds are either full already or rapidly filling up.”
He noted that several provinces are hard at work to prepare additional beds, ventilators, and oxygen to respond to the increase in patients.
He also highlighted that frontline healthcare workers have been putting their lives on the line over the past 9 months, and are therefore getting infected themselves in higher numbers.
“They are exhausted and are struggling under the strain of the second wave already,” said Ramaphosa.
“The total number health care workers infected since start of pandemic is now over 41,000.”