South Africa Secures Additional Vaccines, Eases Alcohol Ban

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that his administration has secured millions of additional coronavirus vaccines to help bring the disease under control and eased a ban on alcohol sales after a two-month spike in cases abated.

The country will remain on virus alert level 3, but liquor stores will be allowed to resume trading between Mondays and Thursdays and bars and restaurants can sell alcohol again throughout the week. Beaches, parks, dams and lakes that were closed in Covid-19 hotspots late last year will be reopened, a night-time curfew will be shortened by three hours and religious gatherings will be permitted.

“We have now passed the peak of the second wave,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address on Monday. “Despite the clear progress we have made, the number of new cases is still high and there is an ever-present danger of a resurgence.”

South Africa has reported more than 1.45 million cases and 44,164 deaths so far, the most in Africa. The positivity rate has declined to less than 20% from a peak of 36% last month, and average daily infections have dropped to about 5,500 from a record 21,980 in December. That’s eased pressure on hospitals, which were close to being swamped.

The government has secured 20 million doses from Pfizer Inc. and 9 million from Johnson & Johnson, which will begin arriving in the second quarter, according to Ramaphosa. Covax, a global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to vaccines, has agreed to supply the country with another 12 million doses, with about 2 million to arrive by next month, he said. The country will also get a share of 1 billion doses the African Union has negotiated for the continent from Covax and other suppliers.

Ramaphosa’s administration has drawn criticism from scientists, labor unions and opposition parties for being slow off the mark in procuring shots. The first 1 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc vaccines arrived from India on Monday, and will be used to inoculate health workers at 200 designated facilities. Another 500,000 doses are due to arrive later this month.

“The arrival of these vaccines contains the promise that we can turn the tide on this disease that has caused so much devastation and hardship,” the president said. “It is up to us to get vaccinated as soon as possible and stop the virus spreading further.”

Other highlights:

  • The government aims to vaccinate two-thirds of its 60 million people.
  • Shots will be made available to all adults but it won’t be compulsory to get them.
  • Daily hospital admissions have fallen to less than 300 from a peak of more than 2,300.
  • A new, more contagious strain of the virus that was first identified in South Africa could drive another resurgence

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.