President Cyril Ramaphosa has cautioned on the possibility of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the country and says the urgent task ahead was ensuring that rising cases in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape should be brought under control.
Ramaphosa addressed the country on Thursday night and announced new restrictions, in addition to level 1 lockdown restrictions, for the Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) metro in the Eastern Cape.
Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in the region and it has now been declared a hotspot. Areas such as the Garden Route in the Western Cape have also been highlighted as a concern by the president but so far the area has escaped restrictions.
Ramaphosa said as of Thursday 21 803 people had died from the coronavirus in the country.
New restrictions in NMB come into effect from Friday.
NMB will see a longer curfew from 10 pm to 4 am, restrictions will also be placed on alcohol sales times and limitations of public gatherings.
Summer initiations could also resume, but not in NMB, the president said.
Ramaphosa said hospitals in NMB were highly under pressure as hospital admissions were on the rise. The president said as part of preventative measures, more hospital capacities would be made available in these areas.
“We are expanding public health interventions such as testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine. We are also stepping up our awareness campaigns around public health regulations,” he said.
The Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize will also be visiting the Garden Route and Sarah Baartman Districts to assess the rise in infections. Ramaphosa said based on these assessments, the Coronavirus Command Council will then determine what action to take to curb infections.
The president also announced the extension of the national state of disaster until January 15.
Ramaphosa said the rest of the country remained on level 1 of the risk-adjusted strategy and warned that caution had to be taken especially ahead of the festive season.
“We have all the tools we need to prevent a resurgence in the rest of the country. We can only do this if everyone plays their part. We can only prevent a second wave if all of us respect the rules that have been put in place for the protection of everyone.
For the safety of all of us, those who break the rules must face consequences,” he warned.
The president said law enforcement agencies had been instructed to ensure adherence to lockdown regulations in public spaces.
On the three Covid-19 vaccines which have all reported high positivity rates, Ramaphosa said this was promising and that the government awaits confirmation from medical regulators that these vaccines were safe.
He said the country was also part of the WHO’s Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access facility which aims to ensure greater access and equitable share of vaccine treatments.
“We are encouraged that the Solidarity Fund will be making the initial contribution of R327 million towards this vaccine procurement on behalf of our country,” he said.