Ramaphosa Tightens South Africa’s Virus Curbs as Cases Jump
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa extended a night-time curfew and reduced the permissible size of public gatherings to contain the spread of the coronavirus after a surge in infections.
The curfew will run from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., one hour longer than before, as the country moves to virus alert level two, from level one. A maximum of 100 people will be allowed at indoor gatherings and 250 at outdoor events, while restaurants must close by 10pm. A widely anticipated tightening of curbs on alcohol sales didn’t materialize.
“We have seen in other countries the tragic consequences of allowing the virus to spread unchecked,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday. “Further restrictions are necessary to ensure health facilities are not overwhelmed and lives that can be saved are not lost.”
The seven-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases has risen to 3,745, from less than 800 in early April, while the test positivity rate has risen to more than 11%. More than 1.6 million people in South Africa have been diagnosed with the disease, the most in Africa, and more than 56,000 of them have died, according to Health Ministry data.
Four provinces have already entered a third wave of infections and it may only be a matter of time before it spreads to the entire country, according to Ramaphosa. “We do not yet know how severe this wave will be or how long it will last,” he said.
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Africa’s most-indutrialized economy contracted 7% last year as harsh restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus shuttered businesses and pushed up unemployment levels. The National Trasury expects the economy to expand 3.3% this year.
South Africa began a vaccination program on Feb. 17, inoculating 479,768 health-care workers with a single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot. Another 484,108 mostly elderly people have received a first shot of Pfizer Inc.’s double-dose vaccine since May 16.
“Right now our priority must be to scale up our vaccination campaign to reach as many people as possible,” Ramaphosa said.
The authorities have secured enough vaccines to inoculate about 40 million people, about two-thirds of the population. Efforts are being made to procure other shots, including Russia’s Sputnik and Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine.
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