Ramaphosa Reinstates Restrictions in South African Virus Hotspot

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reimposed several curbs aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic in one of the nation’s biggest municipalities, which is battling a second wave of infections.

A 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew will be reinstated in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape province, Ramaphosa said in a televised address on Thursday. Alcohol sales will only be permitted from Monday to Thursday in the municipality, a restriction that was lifted nationwide in August, while the consumption of alcohol in public spaces will be forbidden.

“The most urgent task before us now is to contain the rise in infections in the affected districts,” Ramaphosa said. “A resurgence of the virus would be a severe blow to the emerging recovery of our economy.”

South Africa introduced one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns on March 27, and progressively eased it to restart the economy as the number of new virus cases declined. The trend has reversed over the past three weeks in several areas, with hospitals battling to cope with surging admissions.

Nelson Mandela Bay is South Africa’s sixth-largest city, with a population of 1.3 million people.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize will visit the Sarah Baartman district in the Eastern Cape province and the Garden Route, a tourist hub in the Western Cape, which have also seen increases in Covid-19 infections. He’ll assess whether additional curbs are needed in those areas, Ramaphosa said.

Several of the most severe outbreaks emanated from large events, and it’s been decided to halve the permitted size of outdoor public gatherings to 250 people in virus hotspots, according to the president. Indoor meetings will be restricted to 100 people, down from a previous limit of 250, he said. All post-funeral gatherings will be prohibited.

The pandemic and associated lockdown has devastated Africa’s most-industrialized economy, with the central bank expecting gross domestic product to contract 8% this year.

Ramaphosa Reinstates Restrictions in South African Virus Hotspot

The limited and localized curbs are unlikely to have a major bearing on the nation’s growth outlook, said Sanisha Packirisamy, an economist at Momentum Investments.

Of the 800,872 people diagnosed with the disease in South Africa so far, 92% have recovered, while 21,803 have died, according to government data. On Wednesday 4,400 new cases were detected, the most since mid-August.

“If ever there was a time for caution, this is the time,” Ramaphosa said. “This virus does not take a holiday.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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