President Cyril Ramaphosa has kept the country on Level 4 for another two weeks as Covid-19 cases surge in the country. Ramaphosa also used the Sunday night address to condemn the sporadic violence and criminal activities that have erupted since former president Jacob Zuma was jailed last week.
The Department of Health said on Sunday that 16 302 new Covid-19 cases and 151 deaths had been reported, bringing the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 64 289 since the start of the pandemic last year.
“As things stand now, infections remain extremely high. With the fast-spreading Delta variant, we are experiencing a third wave that is more severe than the first and second waves,” said Ramaphosa.
He said that Level 4 would remain in place until July 25.
With Level 4 still intact, Ramaphosa said all social, religious and political gatherings would remain prohibited. The 9pm to 4am curfew also remains in place and only people who are permitted to travel during these times may do so.
While Ramaphosa acknowledged the vital role alcohol plays in the economy of the country he said the sale of alcohol would still be prohibited.
Schools would also only open on July 26 and not July 19 as announced by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
Ramaphosa announced that restaurants and gyms would be allowed to open. However, restaurants would not be allowed to have more than 50 people at a time while smaller establishments cannot accommodate more than 50% of their normal capacity. No alcohol would be allowed to be sold.
The president said that while Gauteng accounts for more than half of the country’s new infections, cases were rapidly increasing in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there have been a cumulative 772 196 cases in Gauteng with 8 543 new cases recorded on Sunday.
Ramaphosa said that the health system across the country remained under pressure. “By next week, daily hospital admissions across the country are likely to reach the levels observed during the peak of the first two waves,” he said.
He also said Covid-19 related deaths in hospitals are increasing and have surpassed those observed in the past two levels.
He added that since the country moved to Level 4 there had been talks to address the challenges faced by employees who had lost their income under the restrictions. As such, he said the Unemployment Insurance Fund had decided to extend the Covid-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) to sectors that are affected under Level 4 restrictions.
Free Jacob Zuma protests
Addressing the Free Jacob Zuma protests that started on Friday in KwaZulu-Natal and which had now spread to Gauteng and parts of Mpumalanga, Ramaphosa said the violent protests were unacceptable as they were not only endangering the lives of people but were destroying the economy.
In KwaZulu-Natal more than 20 trucks were burnt on the N3, some of them were carrying luxury vehicles. On Sunday evening malls, shops and liquor stores were looted in some parts of Johannesburg and in townships in KwaZulu-Natal.
Journalists have also been targeted. An SABC crew was robbed at gunpoint of its equipment on Sunday morning in Alexandra township while a car belonging to Newzroom Afrika was shot at.
Ramaphosa said the constitution allowed for peaceful protest but said lawlessness would not be tolerated.
“While there are those who may be hurt and angry at this moment, there can never be any justification for such violent, destructive and disruptive actions.
“It is a matter of concern to all South Africans that some of these acts of violence are based on ethnic mobilisation,” he said.
He said the country’s democratic constitution was built on the principle that everyone is equal before the law and that all people have the right to equal protection before the law.
“The rule of law safeguards against the abuse of power. The rule of law protects the poor and the vulnerable. Since the advent of democracy, institutions like the Constitutional Court have been at the forefront of improving the lives of South Africans.
“Let us be clear, as a nation, that we will not tolerate acts of criminality. Those who are involved in acts of violence will be arrested and prosecuted. Those found guilty of breaking the lockdown regulations will receive the stipulated penalty. This will be done without fear or favour,” said Ramaphosa.
Near kwaMaimai under the M2 bridge in the Johannesburg CBD, Zuma supporters marching and burning tyres as they block the road with rubble. ??: Tebogo Letsie
Ramaphosa encouraged people who are eligible to register for the Covid-19 vaccination to do so and get vaccinated.
He said currently 190 000 people are on average being vaccinated every week, while the total number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine sits at 4.2 million.
He said the department of health was working with the private sector to implement workplace vaccination programmes in order to expand capacity beyond public sites.