South Africa to Bolster Curbs as New Virus Infections Surge

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will restrict liquor sales and impose other curbs in a bid to contain the fallout from a second wave of coronavirus infections that have pushed the cumulative caseload past the 1 million mark, according to three people with knowledge of his plans.

Ramaphosa will announce the measures in a televised address on Monday night, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans haven’t been made public. The hours of a nationwide curfew may be extended and the permissible size of public gatherings will be reduced, they said.

The pandemic and restrictions imposed to contain it have devastated Africa’s most industrialized economy with the central bank forecasting that gross domestic product will contract 8% this year. New curbs introduced at the height of the holiday season would deal a further blow to the beleaguered tourism and hospitality industries and make it more difficult to engineer a rebound next year.

The country, which has detected a second and more infectious strain of the virus known as 501.V2, reported a record 14,796 new infections on Christmas day, and the cumulative total had risen to 1,004,413 by Sunday. Public and private hospitals have been battling to cope with an influx of patients.

“Government continuously monitors all dimensions of the Covid-19 pandemic and as and when decisions are taken they are communicated publicly,” Tyrone Seale, acting spokesman for President Cyril Ramaphosa, said by text message in a response to questions. Ramaphosa is due to begin speaking at 8 p.m. local time.

Varying restrictions on alcohol sales have been implemented since an initial lockdown was imposed in late March, in part to lower hospital admissions from vehicle accidents and alcohol-related violence. Still, the government lost tax revenue as a result of the initial ban on sales, and liquor traders and bars fired workers.

Liquor companies that operate in South Africa include Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Diageo Plc and Distell Group Holdings Ltd.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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