S/Africa tightens Covid-19 restrictions amid third wave fears

South Africa on Wednesday returned to Level 3 restrictions in efforts to stem a recent rise in infections which have…

South Africa on Wednesday returned to Level 3 restrictions in efforts to stem a recent rise in infections which have averaged over 7,000 cases daily during the past few days, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.In a broadcast to the nation Tuesday night, Ramaphosa appealed to his compatriots to strictly adhere to health protocols against Covid-19 in order to stop the surge – with mask wearing remaining mandatory nationwide while offenders would risk arrest.

He said learning from experience from the last two waves of infections when health facilities were overwhelmed as the numbers of serious cases rose dramatically, the priority was now to ensure that the country had enough hospital beds, enough healthcare workers, oxygen and ventilators. 

“We have to contain this new wave of infections,” Ramaphosa said, adding that latest data showed that the country was in a heightened crisis mode, with hospital admissions soaring, and private hospitals nearly full to capacity.

The majority of new cases were recorded in Gauteng Province (64%), followed by the Western Cape (7%), North West (6%), Free State (6%) and KwaZulu-Natal (5%), according to the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). 

“An increase of 1,415 hospital admissions and 157 in-hospital deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours,” the NICD said.

Ramaphosa’s announcement came as the country recorded 8,436 new cases overnight, with a 17.8% positivity rate – bringing the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 1,761,066 since the outbreak of the virus in March 2020 in the country. 

As part of the current restrictions to control the surge, the president said new curfew hours would now begin an hour earlier at 10 pm (2000 GMT) and ending at 4 am.

In addition, public gatherings would now be restricted to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, he said.

Off-site sales of alcohol would be restricted between Mondays and Thursdays only, with on-site booze sales at restaurants to remain as per facility’s liquor license – but up to 9pm only — nationwide, he added.

“If we act too soon, or impose measures that are too severe, the economy will suffer. At the same time, if we act too late, or if our response is too weak, we risk losing control of the virus,” Ramaphosa told the nation in the televised broadcast.

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