Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last night that resurgent Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations has caused the government to resolve to effectively place Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) on a stricter lockdown.
The Eastern Cape municipality has been declared a coronavirus hot spot.
But ahead of his announcement last night, South Africans, weary of a return to the earlier Level 3 restrictions were expecting the worst, queuing up to stock up on liquor and cigarettes.
Ramaphosa said Nelson Mandela Bay, Sarah Baartman District in the Eastern Cape, and the Garden Route District in the Western Cape were responsible for most of the 4 400 new infections in South Africa.
From today, alcohol sales in Nelson Mandela Bay will be restricted from Mondays to Thursdays, a curfew will be re-imposed from 10pm to 4am, and mass gatherings will be restricted.
But Ramaphosa acknowledged that a cause for the increase in infections in the three areas was due to the fact that people were simply not adhering to the safety protocols.
“In the case of the Garden Route, this also applies to the movement of seasonal workers who work in one province and live in another province. Social, cultural and religious gatherings are being held in large numbers.In many cases these gatherings are often attended by many more people than is permitted under Level 1 restrictions. What is concerning is that these are also often held in venues with poor ventilation,” Ramaphosa said.
He said 800 872 people in South Africa had been infected by Covid-19 in South Africa since March.
“Around 92 percent of these people have recovered. As of today (Thursday), 21 803 people are known to have died from Covid-19 in South Africa,” Ramaphosa said.
He also pointed to funerals, particularly “after tears” parties for an increase in infections, with several hospitals in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro reporting an increase in alcohol-related trauma admissions, placing a strain on much-needed resources to deal with Covid-19 hospitalisations.
For this reason all “after tears” parties in Nelson Mandela Bay have been banned.
“But by far the greatest contributing cause of infections is that many people are not wearing masks and are not observing proper hygiene and social distancing,” Ramaphosa said.
Comparing Covid-19 infections to a bushfire, Ramaphosa said the flare-up had to be quickly extinguished before it became an inferno. He said the most urgent task was to contain the increase of infections in the Eastern Cape, and that a similiar increase did not occur in other parts of South Africa.
“At the same time, we need to do all we can to keep the economy open and to push ahead with our reconstruction and recovery effort,” Ramaphosa said.
Despite earlier talk that the traditional Xhosa initiation season would be banned for this year, Ramaphosa said talks, and a commitment from traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape to adhere to safety protocols meant the rite of passage could go ahead, except for in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
“This is because traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape have submitted a risk-adjusted plan that has been approved by Departments of Health and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.”
With the distribution of new vaccines starting this week overseas, and the UK government giving the okay for one vaccine, Ramaphosa said the Solidarity Fund would contribute R327 million towards the procurement of a vaccine for South Africa.
“If there is anything this pandemic has taught us, it is the danger of becoming complacent.”
With the number of infections on the increase again, he said South Africans could not sacrifice their collective gains.
“We cannot return to the darker days of June and July, when transmission of the virus was widespread and the lives of our family and friends were at risk. Just as we know that a second wave is possible, we know too that it is not inevitable,” said Ramaphosa.