In a national address on Monday evening (14 December), the president said that the country has been hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections with nearly 8,000 new cases reported on Sunday.
There can no longer be any doubt that South Africa has entered a second wave, said the president. “If we do not act urgently, the second wave will be even more severe than the first wave.”
The president pointed to four provinces leading this second wave, including:
- The Western Cape
- The Eastern Cape
There are probably many reasons for this massive spike in infections, but some key contributors are now becoming clearer, the president said.
Ramaphosa said that most cases are reported in young people between 15 and 19 years. He said that one of the main reasons for the massive spike in infections are social gatherings and parties- particularly the matric rage event.
“In many of these gatherings, social distancing is not being observed, venues are crowded and not adequately ventilated, hand sanitiser is not readily available, and people are not wearing masks,” he said.
Many people consume alcoholic drinks at these ‘super-spreader’ events, with the result that people become less careful about taking measures to protect themselves and prevent infection.
“We now know that nearly 1,000 young people from Gauteng who attended the event have tested positive for the coronavirus. What we don’t yet know is how many more people each of them has infected.
“It is said that up to 300 families could, in turn, have been infected. The sad truth about is that festivals, concerts & parties – which should be occasions for fun & joy – are proving to be sources of infection & illness and may even lead to deaths.”
Other reasons behind the rise infections include increased travel between provinces and a relaxed attitude to current lockdown regulations such as wearing masks.
“The more we travel, the greater the potential to spread the virus,” the president said.
He said that the relatively low rates of infection over the last few months have made us more relaxed about wearing a mask over our nose and mouth every time we go out in public.
“Another factor in the rise in infections is increased travel with many people not observing prevention measures as they move within cities, towns and rural areas, and between different areas.”
“The festive season now poses the greatest threat,” the president said. “Unless we do things differently, this will be the last Christmas for many South Africans,” he said.
Ramaphosa said that it is necessary to take extraordinary measures to save lives, while still protecting livelihoods.
These measures include local lockdown restrictions for the Sarah Baartman District in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route District in the Western Cape, which have been declared hotspot regions.
From 00h01 on Tuesday, until a drop in infections is seen, the following additional restrictions will take effect in these areas:
- Hours of curfew will be from 22h00 – 04h00 except for essential workers and emergencies;
- The sale of alcohol will only be permitted between 10h00 and 18h00, from Monday and Thursday at retail outlets;
- Alcohol use will be banned in public places such as beaches and parks;
- All gatherings, including religious gatherings, may not be attended by more than 100 people for indoor events and 250 people for outdoor events;
- At all times the total number of people may not exceed 50% of venue capacity;
- All post-funeral gatherings are now prohibited.
Ramaphosa also announced that further national restrictions will be reintroduced from 00h01 on Tuesday.
These restrictions will be reviewed in early January based on the state of the country’s coronavirus cases, he said.
The new restrictions include:
- Stricter enforcement of existing level 1 lockdown restrictions – This includes that people in public buildings and public transport wear masks.
- Gatherings – Gatherings will be further restricted to 100 people for indoor events and 250 for outdoor events. The total number of people in a venue may not exceed 50% of the capacity of the venue.
- Funerals – All post-funeral gathering are prohibited across the country.
- Beaches – Ramaphosa said that a differentiated approach will be used for the country’s beaches and public parks. In areas with high coronavirus cases beaches and parks will be closed from 16 December to 3 January – this will apply to all of the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route. Beaches will also be closed in KZN on days which are seen as particularly busy. These include 16 December, 26 December, 31 December, 1 January, 2 January, and 3 January. Beaches and public parks in the Western Cape and Northern Cape will remain open for now.
- Evening – South Africa’s national curfew will be extended: 23h00 until 04h00. This means that non-essential establishments such as restaurants will have to close at 22h00 so that staff and patrons can go home before curfew. The curfew is in full effect on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
- Alcohol – The sale of alcohol will only be permitted from 10h00 – 18h00 from Monday to Thursday at retail outlets. Wine farms can remain open and sell alcohol for off-site consumption as per their licence hours.