President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that additional restrictions will be implemented in COVID-19 hotspots that have been identified in South Africa.

In an address to the nation on Thursday 3 December, Ramaphosa said that as of today, 21,803 people are known to have died from COVID-19 in South Africa.

“We have seen many countries around the world experience a resurgence of the coronavirus, some with second waves even worse than their initial peak,” Ramaphosa said.

“There is now clear evidence of a resurgence of infections in parts of our country, which if not confronted decisively and directly, could lead to great suffering and death.”

“In line with our differentiated approach to the management of the pandemic, we will therefore implement additional measures in those areas identified as coronavirus hotspots,” he said.

He noted specific regions where there is a risk of COVID-19 resurgence: Nelson Mandela Bay and the Sarah Baartman district in the Eastern Cape, and the Garden Route District in the Western Cape.

“At alert level 1, we have the measures we need to control the virus – all the measures are in place – but the main problem is that there are parts of the country where people are not complying with the restrictions,” Ramaphosa said.

New lockdown rules for COVID-19 hotspots

The president said that Cabinet has decided to declare the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality as a coronavirus hotspot.

As part of this declaration, the following restrictions will apply in this region from midnight tonight:

  • The hours of the curfew will now be from 22:00 until 04:00. No person may be outside their place of residence except for emergencies and essential workers permitted to work during these hours.
  • The sale of alcohol from retail outlets will only be allowed from 10:00 until 18:00 from Monday to Thursday.
  • Alcohol consumption in public places is strictly forbidden. Ramaphosa said this is necessary to prevent large social gatherings in places such as beaches and parks.
  • Gatherings may not be attended by more than 100 people for indoor events and 250 for outdoor venues. At all times, the number of people at a gathering may not exceed 50% of the carrying capacity of the venue.
  • All post-funeral gatherings are prohibited.

“These additional measures are necessary to contain the resurgence we are experiencing right now in Nelson Mandela Bay,” the President said.

Ramaphosa added that the summer initiation season in the Eastern Cape will go ahead following the submission of a risk-adjusted plan by traditional leaders that has been approved by the Department of Health.

However, no initiation schools will be allowed in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.

Ramaphosa said that when defining hotspots, consideration is given to the number of new COVID-19 cases that occur per day, the testing rate within the population, the positivity rate within the population, and the number of cases and deaths.

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize will be visiting the Garden Route and Sarah Baartman districts in the coming days to assess the situation.

Based on this, the appropriate action will be taken by the National Coronavirus Command Council, which may include additional restrictions similar to those above.

The National State of Disaster will be extended until 15 January 2021, the President added. All existing level 1 lockdown restrictions will remain in place nationwide.

“We must change our behaviour now to prevent a resurgence of the virus and manage outbreaks wherever they occur,” Ramaphosa warned.

“If there ever was a time for caution, this is the time.”

Vaccine needed to stop second wave

According to Professor Alex van den Heever, chair of social security systems administration and management studies at the Wits School of Governance, the only way to stop a major second wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa this winter is the rollout of vaccines.

Van den Heever said there is a strong seasonal element to the pandemic which is related to human behaviour.

“As the weather cools, people spend more time indoors which increases the transmission of the virus. It also creates the opportunity for super spreader events,” he said.

Summer is the period where the typical transmission rates are reduced, but what is happening in some regions is that transmission rates are increasing.

He also said that in these coronavirus hotspots, regional restrictions are needed to stop the spread of the virus.

Van den Heever said the general national lockdown “clearly did not work in the first phase”, even though it had some effect.

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