President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that this could be the last Christmas to see some people alive if South Africans do not take measures to minimise the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Ramaphosa slipped this grave warning into his Monday evening address to the nation, while announcing a raft of new measures to limit the virus spread over the festive season. These new measures are a result of the country's entering a second wave of Covid-19 infections that rose from about 2 000 cases a day to just under 8 000 cases reported for Sunday, December 13.
Ramaphosa declared the Garden Route area, as well as Sarah Baartman District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, as new Covid-19 hotspots where tighter restrictions will apply. All Eastern Cape beaches have been closed for the festive period, while KwaZulu-Natal beaches will be closed on the busiest days that include December 16, 25, 26 and 31, as well as January 1, 2 and 3. Beaches in the Western Cape will remain open and this is probably due to the lobbying of the Western Cape provincial government, which is opposed to any form of lockdown or restrictive measures that might harm the economy.
Nationally the evening curfew has been brought forward and will now be set from 11pm to 4am. All restaurants and bars will be required to close at 10pm to allow workers and patrons time to go home before curfew begins. All indoor gatherings, including religious, will have a maximum of 100 people, while a total of 250 people will be allowed at outside gatherings. All post-funeral gatherings such as "after tears" are now prohibited.
Alcohol sales will be allowed only from Monday to Thursday, 10am to 6pm.
In his address Ramaphosa warned that infections are getting close to 900 000, and “we will soon hit a million”.
“Yesterday, we recorded nearly 8 000 new cases and the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa now stands at 866 127. These figures are a cause for great concern.”
New hours of curfew: from 11pm to 4am.
Stricter enforcement of level 1 restrictions.
The Garden Route and Sarah Baartman District Municipality are declared hotspots.
All drivers of public transport, and owners and custodians of buildings or stores must ensure all patrons wear masks.
All gatherings (including religious gatherings) must not exceed 100 people indoors or 250 people outdoors. No venue may exceed 50% of its stated capacity.
No post-funeral gatherings or booze parties.
Beaches and public parks in the most affected areas will be closed from December 16 to January 3. This applies to the entire Eastern Cape area, and the Garden Route district in the Western Cape. In KwaZulu-Natal, the restriction will apply on certain days: December 16, 25, 26 and 31; and January 1, 2 and 3.
No parties or festivals at beaches.
Sale of alcohol: from 10am to 6pm, Monday to Thursday only.
Alcohol consumption at all beaches and parks is strictly prohibited.
Nonessential establishments, including restaurants and bars must close at 10pm.
Registered wineries and wine farms may continue to offer tastings and wine sales to the public for off-site consumption over weekends.
The above restrictions are to be reviewed in early January 2021.
“The daily average of new cases nationally over the last seven days is 74% higher than the previous seven days. The daily average of Covid-19 deaths has increased by nearly 50% over the same period from just over 100 deaths a day to just over 150 deaths,” the president told South Africans.
Ramaphosa spent a lot of his time trying to appeal to people to do the basics, such as sanitising, social distancing and wearing masks. There is a possibility that the second wave could be more deadly than the first, he warned, adding that the second wave had manifested mainly among young people and was fuelled by social gatherings, especially parties.
In many of these gatherings, social distancing is not being observed, venues are crowded and not enough ventilation is available. This is compounded by hand sanitiser’s not being readily available and many people refusing to wear a mask. Ramaphosa said many consume alcoholic drinks at these “superspreader” events, with the result that they become less careful about taking measures to protect themselves and others, and prevent infection.
He warned managers and owners of buildings who allow entry to people who are not wearing masks that they will be liable for a fine or imprisonment for up to six months.
“The sad truth about this pandemic is that festivals, concerts and parties – which should be occasions for fun and joy – are proving to be sources of infection and illness, and may even lead to deaths,” he said.
The president also warned against increased travelling as a risk factor. He was concerned that many people do not observe preventive measures as they move between cities, towns and rural areas. “We have to recognise that the more we travel, the greater the potential for the spread of the virus. That means wearing a mask when you are in public transport and making sure that the windows are open at all times.”
Ramaphosa said South Africa had concluded all the necessary processes to ensure its participation in the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility.
“As part of this facility, it is expected that South Africa will receive initial vaccines to cover 10% of our population in the early part of next year,” he announced.