Curfew eased but Level 3 lockdown to stay until SA passes peak of new infections
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Cape Town - Amid soaring Covid-19 infections, and increased hospitalisations, the government has decided to extend the amended level 3 lockdown regulations which were implemented just before the New Year’s holiday.
Addressing the nation last night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We must do everything to slow the transmission of the virus. We have had an opportunity to review the regulations and held a number of consultations.
“Based on the recommendations of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), Cabinet has decided to maintain the country on adjusted alert level 3. Most of the measures that were announced In December last year will therefore remain in place.”
The president said it is necessary to keep the currently regulations “until we have passed the peak of new infections”and government can be certain that the rate of transmission has fallen enough to allow for the restrictions be eased safely.
Currently the Western Cape has 44 303 active Covid-19 infections. Nationally there are 1.23 million cases and 33 000 deaths. Ramaphosa said research had indicated that the increase in infections was due to a new variant detected in November last year.
“The new variant means we must be more vigilant and cautious in following the national guidelines. When we are able to work together we can make a difference. Let us work together and let us agree on those issues that we must do and will do to overcome the pandemic this year,” he said.
Ramaphosa highlighted the issue of funerals which have become known as “super-spreaders”.“We are in the grip of a deadly pandemic and all the activities that would normally take place are increasing the risk of exposure. Funerals have become a death trap for many of our people. It has become necessary to stay at home. Funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people.”
Other measures include an easing of the curfew from 9pm to 5am. But beaches and parks will remain closed. The Cabinet decided to close the 20 ports of entry, including the busiest – Beitbridge, Lebombo, Maseru bridge, Oshoek, Ficksburg and Kopfontein.
Restrictions on religious gatherings remain. The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.
Ramaphosa’s address follows meetings of the NCCC, the President’s Co-ordinating Council and the Cabinet. In December Ramaphosa put the country on adjusted level 3 for 14 days after the country breached one million Covid-19 cases.
Last week, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the country would receive its first doses of vaccines for front-line workers at the end of this month. A bilateral agreement with the Serum Institute of India has been reached and a further 500 000 doses are expected next month.
“The development of several effective vaccines is most promising. When enough people are vaccinated we will reach population immunity, bringing the spread of the virus under control. Our scientists said this will likely reach 67% of the population if we have put in place a comprehensive vaccine strategy and we continue to work on this strategy,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the government was procuring vaccines through the Covax facility, the AU vaccine initiative and directly with vaccine manufacturers.
Twenty million doses have been procured and will be delivered in the first half of the year. Ramaphosa said further announcements would be made.