President Cyril Ramaphosa extended a prohibition on alcohol sales, restricted cross-border travel and announced plans to buy millions of additional vaccines as hospitals struggle to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases.
The country will remain on virus alert level 3, and the alcohol ban that was introduced on December 28 and was due to end on January 15 will remain in place, Ramaphosa said on Monday in a nationally televised address. All land-border posts will be closed to most travellers until February 15, public gatherings other than funerals won’t be allowed, and a nationwide curfew will be enforced from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., he said.
Read: Alcohol sales remain banned and most beaches closed
“The pandemic in our country is now at its most devastating,” Ramaphosa said. “We must unite to overcome the grave and persisting crisis our country faces.”
The pandemic and restrictions imposed to contain it have devastated Africa’s most industrialised economy, and the extension of curbs that came into effect at the height of the holiday season bode ill for efforts to engineer a rebound. Varying restrictions on alcohol sales have been implemented since an initial lockdown was imposed in late March, helping lower hospital admissions from vehicle accidents and alcohol-related violence.
The government last week announced it had struck a deal for an initial 1.5 million doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford from The Serum Institute of India Ltd., with first shipments set to arrive this month. It will aim to inoculate two-thirds of the population by the end of the year.
Ramaphosa said the government has secured 20 million vaccine doses this year, most of which are due to arrive in the first half. He didn’t provide details of the additional supply deals, saying they would be announced once negotiations were concluded.
“We are exploring all avenues to get as many vaccine doses as soon as possible,” the president said.
The country, which has detected a second and more infectious strain of the virus known as 501.V2, has reported more than 119,000 new infections since January 1, bringing the cumulative total to more than 1.23 million.
“If anything, the new variant means we must be more vigilant and diligent,” Ramaphosa said. “We must never see ourselves as being totally helpless. Our actions do have an impact on the direction and extent of the disease.”
Other speech highlights:
- Beaches, dams, lakes and swimming pools will remain closed in all virus hotspots.
- The six busiest border posts — Beitbridge, Lebombo, Maseru Bridge, Oshoek, Ficksburg and Kopfontein — are among those that will be closed to most travelers.
- Borders will remain for the transportation of fuel and cargo, and South African nationals and permanent residents will be allowed to return home.
- The government is still deliberating on when schools should reopen.
- Vaccines will be distributed through hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and workplaces.
© 2021 Bloomberg