S/Africa on heightened lockdown over Delta virus fears

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has banned alcohol sales and increased curfew hours as part of efforts to contain the…

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has banned alcohol sales and increased curfew hours as part of efforts to contain the rampant Delta virus which has contributed to the coronavirus third wave’s surge in record numbers of infections and deaths in the country in the past two weeks.In addition to banning all alcohol sales and increasing curfew hours by two hours, all public gatherings have been prohibited in the country for two weeks – except for funerals of 50 mourners or less, Ramaphosa said. 

Announcing the new restrictions on Sunday night, Ramaphosa said the country had evidence showing that the highly transmissible Delta variant was rapidly displacing the current Beta variant, which had been dominant in the country until now.

He told the nation in the televised broadcast that the country was in the grip of a devastating Covid-19 third wave that, by all indications, appeared to be worse than the two waves that preceded it last year and in early this year.

“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. It is thought to be twice as contagious as the Beta variant,” the South African leader said.

He added: “Secondly, because it is more contagious, it can infect far more people. As with the previous variants, you can pass it on without even knowing you have it.”

In addition, he said “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.”

“Fourthly, 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,” he explained.

According to the president, the “peak of this third wave looks set to be higher than the previous two. The first wave lasted 15 weeks. The second wave lasted nine weeks. We don’t know how long this one will last. But indications are that it could last longer.”

So far, however, the Delta variant has been detected in five of the provinces of Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, and Gauteng – which is currently the country’s epicentre of the disease.

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