- Escalating Covid-19 cases forced President Cyril Ramaphosa to place the country under alert Level 4.
- Gauteng, which accounts for 60% of the cases, has been severely impacted with additional restrictions.
- The sale of alcohol has been banned countrywide.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has moved the country to alert Level 4 lockdown, with stricter restrictions from Monday.
This, after the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) advised that the limited restrictions, previously imposed, were not that effective.
Because of the high number of Covid-19 infections in Gauteng, travel in and out of the province for leisure purposes is prohibited.
This does not include work, business or commercial travel, transit through airports or for the transport of goods.
To ease pressure on hospitals, the sale of alcohol is prohibited for both on-site and off-site consumption for 14 days.
Ramaphosa said the MAC had advised that a prohibition would ease the pressure placed on hospital services by alcohol-related emergency incidents.
All private and public schools will close for winter holidays from Wednesday.
Quoting former statesman Nelson Mandela, "I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way", Ramaphosa said the country was facing another great challenge and another hill to climb.
"The average number of daily new infections was more than doubling, hospital admissions were rising, and deaths from Covid-19 were increasing by nearly 50%.
"In addition, we now have the Delta variant. This variant was first detected in India at the end of March this year, and is now found in 85 countries.
"The Delta variant spread like wildfire in India in an alarming manner. The Delta variant has now been detected in five of our provinces, namely the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.
"The evidence we have is that the Delta variant is rapidly displacing the Beta variant, which has been dominant in our country until now. We are concerned about the rapid spread of this variant. Firstly, because it is more transmissible than previously circulating viruses, meaning it is easier to catch through person-to-person contact," Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said the Delta variant is thought to be twice as contagious as the Beta variant. Secondly, because it is more contagious, it can infect far more people.
We do not know about this variant
"There is now emerging scientific evidence that people previously infected with the Beta variant do not have full protection against the Delta variant and may get re-infected. Because it is much more contagious, the measures we have so far adopted to contain the spread of the virus may no longer be sufficient to reduce transmission. There is also much we do not know about this variant.
"For example, it is not clear that it causes more severe symptoms. Preliminary data from other countries suggests that it is not more severe. Reports from some countries, including on our continent, also suggest that infections and clinical illness in children may be more common with the Delta variant, even as the overall infection rate remains substantially lower than in adults. The rapid spread of this variant is severe," he said.
Ramaphosa said that, even though the Delta variant is not more severe, the rate at which people are infected could lead to many more people becoming ill and requiring treatment at the same time.
The seven-day average of new daily cases nationally has overtaken the peak of the first wave in July last year and will soon overtake the peak of the second wave the country experienced in January this year.
Presently, Gauteng accounts for more than 60% of new cases in the country.
"With the exception of the Northern Cape and Free State, infections are rising rapidly in all other provinces. We also must remain vigilant in the Northern Cape and Free State, which may experience a second spike of cases if the new variant spreads there as well. We must all be worried about what we are seeing unfold before our very eyes," Ramaphosa said.