Ramaphosa warns S Africans second Covid wave may be more deadly

Tighter restrictions include curfews and alcohol sale limits as death toll nears 24,000

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa: beaches and public parks in several provinces will be closed to limit mass gatherings and “super-spreader” events. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa: beaches and public parks in several provinces will be closed to limit mass gatherings and “super-spreader” events. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 

South Africa’s second wave of coronavirus could be more devastating than the first if people refuse to comply with tighter restrictions over Christmas, President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned.

South Africa’s leader delivered his stark assessment to the nation on Monday evening before outlining new regulations designed to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19 while causing minimal damage to the country’s already weak economy.

Mr Ramaphosa initially announced that two more districts – the Garden Route in the Western Cape province and Sarah Baartman in the Eastern Cape – would join Nelson Mandela Bay metro as designated Covid-19 hot spots.

These areas have stricter lockdown rules than the rest of the country. The current Covid-19 outbreak is driven by infection increases in four provinces – the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Mr Ramaphosa said that beaches and public parks in several provinces will be closed over the festive period to limit mass gatherings, as there are fears they will become “super-spreader” events.

Hardest-hit provinces

In addition, a longer nighttime curfew from 11pm (10pm in hot spots) to 4am will also come into force nationwide, and alcohol sales will only be allowed between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday.

Hospitals in the hardest-hit provinces are already reportedly on the brink of being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients.

Social events have been capped at 100 and 250 people respectively for indoor and outdoor events, and all post-funeral gatherings are now prohibited.

“Given the rate at which new cases have grown over the last two weeks, there is every possibility that if we do not act urgently and together, the second wave will be more severe than the first,” Mr Ramaphosa said in a live television address.

Teenagers and parties

The government beefed up its Covid-19 restrictions for the second time in two weeks after new recorded cases of the virus soared. On December 3rd, there were 4,400 new cases of the virus in 24 hours, but 10 days later this figure had jumped to nearly 8,000.

Mr Ramaphosa has blamed the country’s teenagers for much of this rapid increase in infections, saying they were putting the nation in danger by attending large, alcohol-fuelled post-exam parties.

Nearly 1,000 young people had tested positive for coronavirus after just one day-long beach party in KwaZulu-Natal, he said.

As of Monday, South Africa had recorded 5,163 new cases over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of recorded Covid-19 infections to 866,127. Covid-19-related deaths stand at 23,451.

In a rare bit of good news, Mr Ramaphosa confirmed that 10 per cent of South Africa’s population would have access to a Covid-19 vaccine by early next year via the World Health Organisation’s global vaccine access facility.