President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced several changes to regulations which form part of South Africa’s COVID-19 alert level 3 restrictions.
Ramaphosa made the announcement during an address to the nation on Sunday evening.
The President updated the country on developments around South Africa’s risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent regulation changes which would be implemented.
This follows meetings this week of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) and Cabinet regarding the spread of COVID-19 and the measures which must be taken to control the spread of the virus.
Important changes to the lockdown restrictions include the following:
- Alcohol banned – Alcohol sales, making, and distribution have been banned with immediate effect.
- Curfew – A curfew will be enforced from 21:00 until 04:00 every day.
- Wearing of masks – Business owners, managers, etc., are now legally obliged to ensure that visitors and employees must be wearing a mask.
- Designated officials – All businesses must have a designated official responsible for ensuring adherence to lockdown regulations.
- 70% capacity limit on minibus taxis – This 70% capacity rule will be enforced for long trips. Taxis travelling on short local trips will be permitted to travel at 100% capacity.
The changes will come into effect from Monday 13 July.
Ramaphosa said that a number of regulations important to economic activity would be eased.
These include the permittance of all auctions and the opening of parks for exercise, but not public gatherings. Family visits remain strictly prohibited, Ramaphosa said.
To facilitate the continued enforcement of these regulations, the national state of disaster will be extended to 15 August 2020.
“On the advice of health scientists and experts our decision to declare a nationwide lockdown prevented a massive early surge of infections,” Ramaphosa said.
“This moment of crisis in our country requires that we mobilise society on a massive scale to combat this pandemic.”
He said the national health system was now far more prepared to handle the coronavirus, which would result in far fewer COVID-19 related deaths than if a national lockdown was not implemented.
Ramaphosa added that the government is implementing a number of measures to improve capacity at local hospitals, as well as to divert resources to health facilities in hotspots to reduce the load on clinics and hospitals.
South Africa is also working to reduce its turnaround time for tests as well as introducing antibody tests which will allow the formation of more accurate projections.
“The storm is upon us”
Ramaphosa said that there are now 276,242 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Africa, as well as 4,079 COVID-19 related deaths to date.
“The storm is upon us,” Ramaphosa said.
“More than a quarter of a million South Africans have been infected with the coronavirus, and we know that many more infections have gone undetected.”
He said that there were now more than 12,000 new COVID-19 cases every day, which equates to around 500 every hour.
Ramaphosa acknowledged that the measures taken by the country have not been perfect, but stressed that the most important measure is the number of lives that have been saved.
He noted that the virus has spread through carelessness and recklessness, and this behaviour is concerning.
“There are some amongst us who continue to ignore the regulations that have been passed to combat this disease,” Ramaphosa said.
“There are a number of people who have taken to organising parties, have drinking sprees, and walk around in crowded spaces without the protection of masks.”
He warned that this behaviour results in the quickened spread of the virus and costs the lives of many South Africans.
Load-shedding returns to South Africa
These lockdown regulation changes follow shortly after the return of load-shedding to South Africa, with the country experiencing rolling blackouts throughout the weekend.
Eskom has said that load-shedding is expected to continue on Monday 13 January due to the loss of multiple generations units at the power utility and the necessity to replenish emergency power reserves.
“Implementing load-shedding tomorrow is also necessary in order to replenish the emergency generation reserves to better prepare for the week,” Eskom added.
“Eskom wishes to assure the public that implementing load-shedding is the last resort, in order to protect the national grid,” the company said.
Stage 2 load-shedding will be suspended at 22:00 on Sunday and then resume at 09:00 on Monday.