President Cyril Ramaphosa has on Sunday night announced another 14 days extension of the current adjusted alert level 4 restrictions – with minor relaxations – until the 25th of July. The extension follows the failure of the existing restriction measures to curb the increasing infections widely believed to be fuelled by the Delta variant. South Africa is officially facing a third wave that is considered more severe than both the first and second waves.
Ramaphosa said in the past two weeks the country has recorded consistently worrying infections averaging nearly 20 000 daily news cases, adding that the country overall has 200 000 active Covid-19 cases. In the same period, 4, 200 South Africans have succumbed to the pandemic. He said even though Gauteng is the epicentre of these infections, other provinces such as the Western Cape, Limpopo, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga are also experiencing rapid spikes in infections. Ramaphosa said the cumulative effect of the rising infections is putting enormous pressure on the country’s health system as daily admissions at both public and private hospitals are also increasing.
Reducing people’s movement
Ramaphosa said the measures are geared at reducing people’s movement and proximity to one another and that events that have the potential to spread the virus are prohibited. These include: political, religious and political gatherings, funerals, office meetings, parties and family occasions. “That is why, at adjusted level 4, we have had to prohibit religious social and political gatherings,” said the president.
Curfews remain in place to help curb the movement and “limit late-night social gatherings that increase the potential for transmission”. The sake of alcohol is still prohibited as this “reduces the number of admissions at hospitals and emergency rooms with alcohol-related trauma such as motor vehicle accidents and interpersonal violence”.
Expanding vaccination programme
President Ramaphosa said government’s vaccination programme is picking up steam with over 4.2 million South Africans to date already having received the vaccine doses. He said government will accelerate the vaccination drive, adding from this coming Thursday, the 15th of July, those over 35 years of age will be able to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System. In addition, Ramaphosa said, the health department is working closely with the private sector to implement workplace programmes to help expand the vaccination capacity beyond public sites.
“We will continue to work with community, religious and traditional leaders to mobilise communities to get vaccinated. Plans are in place in all provinces to expand many sites to vaccinate either six or seven days of the week,” said Ramaphosa. He encouraged the South Africans who are eligible to register to do so and get their vaccine.
More vaccination doses
The president has also reported positive developments on the procurement of more doses for South Africa and the continent. “In the last few days, the African Union, through our office as the AU Covid-19 Champion, and the European Union have reached a historic agreement that will significantly improve the supply of vaccines to our country and our sister countries on the African continent,” said president.
The agreement will see Aspen delivering over 17 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to South Africa and other African countries over the next three months, he said, adding that this will commence in late July and will double monthly from October.
He said the Johnson & Johnson has committed to adapt the current arrangement so that “we can produce the vaccine in South Africa under license rather than under contract, resulting in our country and the continent having control over the vaccines”. He said this means that South Africa should have a pipeline of vaccine supplies sufficient to meet our vaccination target.
Ramaphosa said they are negotiating to ensure that the drug substance is produced in South Africa and that “we have a fully-owned African vaccine manufactured on African soil in a number of countries on our continent. He also welcomed the US’s donation of 15 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to African countries through the COVAX facility as well as the South African Health Products Regulation Authority’s decision to approve the CoronaVac vaccine from China for use in South Africa. He said the Vaccine Advisory Committee is working on how soon to bring this in the vaccine programme.
Adjusted Alert Level 4 restrictions are as follows:
- All social, political, religious and other gatherings remain prohibited.
- A curfew remains in place from 9pm until 4am, and only those with permission to do so may leave their homes during this time.
- The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.
- Schools will remain closed until the 26th of July.
- It remains mandatory to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth whenever you are in public.
Adjustments were made on the following regulations:
- Restaurants and eateries will be able to operate while observing strict health protocols. Such establishments may not accommodate more than 50 people at a time or, for smaller venues, more than 50 per cent of their normal capacity.
- Certain other venues, such as gyms and fitness centres, may also open and activities such as agricultural livestock and game auctions will be allowed, subject to the conditions outlined in regulations.