The coronavirus pandemic is back in full force in South Africa. Cases are rising rapidly, raising concerns that daily death toll may begin to increase again and hospitals may soon become overwhelmed.
In a statement last Sunday, May 30, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that he was reimposing stricter lockdowns to reduce infections.
He said South Africa has seen an average of 3,745 daily new infections in the seven days leading to his speech.
“This is an increase of 31 per cent on the previous week, and an increase of 66 per cent on the week before that,” Ramaphosa said, adding that the provinces of Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Gauteng have reached the threshold of a third wave of infections. It will only be a matter of time before the whole country will have entered a third wave.
According to South African health experts, the recent surge in new infections is due to the increasing number of social gatherings where people are not observing essential health protocols. These protocols include but not limited to wearing masks, social distancing, ensuring adequate ventilation and limits on the number of people who attend gatherings. Other transmission sites include funerals, so called ‘after tears’ parties, camps and sporting activities at schools.
To limit the increase of the infection, The Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 has recommended that South Africa implement further restrictions. Recommendations were discussed amongst the National Coronavirus Command Council and with Premiers, mayors, and traditional leaders in the President’s Coordinating Council. The country was placed on Alert Level 2 that went into full effect Monday May 31, 2021.
This means that all gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors, venues will operate at 50 percent compacity, if venues lack the space to social distance. This includes bars, taverns, restaurants, religious services, political events, and social gatherings. Masks that cover both the nose and mouth are mandated for every person. It is considered a criminal offence not to do so. As well as a 10-day quarantine, if a person exposed or tests positive for COVID-19.
According to the Scientists that advise government, the severity of this third wave will largely be determined by the amount of contact each of us has with other people.
In total, over 960,000 people in South Africa have received one vaccine dose. He stated that over the next few days, that more than one million of the most vulnerable South Africans will have been administered vaccine doses. One of the main goals along with implemented restriction is to have the vaccination campaign to reach as many people as possible, in every part of South Africa. And the vaccines made readily available to all groups. Currently, healthcare works and those above the age of 60 are the first to be vaccinated first.
The President is urging all countries to support a waiver of the TRIPS agreement at the World Trade Organization so that COVID-19 vaccines and treatments can be produced on a greater scale, at lower cost and at a faster pace.
“Every week that we delay the peak of the third wave allows us to vaccinate hundreds of thousands more people and may well save their lives. This is why it is crucial for us to act now, and to act together, to limit the spread of the virus by wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings and indoor spaces, keeping a distance from others and washing or sanitizing our hands regularly.” President Ramaphosa said.