Lockdown Level 3 is here to stay, at least for the time being. This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who addressed the nation on Monday evening to discuss the country’s progress in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa expressed grave concern about the sharp rise in recorded Covid-19 cases, noting that at the time of the speech, nearly 190,000 new infections had been recorded since New Year’s Day.
“As a proportion of the population, the province with the highest average number of cases over the last seven days is KwaZulu-Natal, followed by Western Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
“New infections in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape have grown fast and have now far exceeded the peak during the first wave.
“Infections in Gauteng are growing exponentially and are expected to increase further as more residents of Gauteng return to the province following the festive break,” he said.
While some of the blame lay with people not properly adhering to lockdown regulations, Ramaphosa also said a new strain of Covid-19 had been identified by scientists, known as 501.v2. This new strain was first identified in November.
“We do know that this new variant of the virus spreads much faster than the earlier variants. This explains the fact that many more people have become infected in a far shorter space of time.
“Emerging information suggests that this new variant does not cause more severe illness than the original variants. But it does put more pressure on the health system because the cases increase so rapidly and the hospitals get full more quickly,” Ramaphosa said.
In light of these facts, the president said that the current lockdown would be extended. Under Level 3, the following regulations apply:
Funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people and social distancing, mask wearing and proper sanitising must be enforced
The hours of the curfew have been changed. It now is in place from 9pm to 5am
Wearing a mask in public is compulsory
The sale of alcohol from retail outlets and the onsite consumption of alcohol is forbidden
All beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks and public swimming pools in hotspot areas are closed. However, botanical gardens, national parks and other parks where access control measures and entry limitations are already in place may remain open to the public
Ramaphosa announced that the 20 land ports of entry to SA will be shut until February 15.
Exceptions will be made for the following:
The transportation of fuel, cargo and goods;
Emergency medical attention for a life-threatening condition,
The return of South African nationals, permanent residents or persons with other valid visas;
The departure of foreign nationals;
Daily commuters from neighbouring countries who attend school in SA.
The full list of exemptions will be contained in the regulations.
In his speech, Ramaphosa stressed that government was working hard to secure a vaccine for its citizens and has partnered with the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility, the African Union’s vaccine initiative and with vaccine manufacturers.
“While the actual level needed for herd immunity is not known, our scientists estimate that we will likely reach herd immunity once around 67% of our population is immune. This amounts to around 40 million people in SA,” he said.