South Africa, hit by a relentless surge fuelled by a fast spreading coronavirus variant, has recorded 513 deaths in a single day, its second-highest daily toll count since some 572 died last July, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday.According to the minister, the latest fatalities bring the country’s Covid-19 death toll to 30,524.
The mutant surge has forced the government to shutdown parts of the economy where masks are now required to be worn in public places or face prosecution, fines and jail sentences – or both, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced recently.
Alcohol sales have also been prohibited for two weeks, pending review for resumption on 15 January under stricter lockdown restrictions, the president said.
Health workers blamed consumption as the main conveyor of the Covid-19 spread among South Africans, with hospital beds taken up by trauma patients from road accidents, stabbings and gun violence fuelled by drinking.
Meanwhile, the country is expecting to have its first batch of vaccines in April this year but the authorities, under pressure from civil society, hope to speed up the vaccine delivery much earlier than this date – perhaps in February, Mkhize said.
The minister said the country has targeted 67% of the population, starting with the health workers, before expanding to vulnerable groups.