South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Sunday the resumption of a series of strict restrictions to curb the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases and related deaths.
South Africa will resume the ban on the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol with immediate effect, in order to conserve hospital capacity, Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.
There is now clear evidence that the resumption of alcohol sales has resulted in substantial pressure on hospitals, including trauma units and intensive care units, due to motor vehicle accidents, violence and related trauma, Ramaphosa said.
South Africa lifted the ban on alcohol sales on June 1 when it relaxed lockdown restrictions, a move that has led to alcohol abuse across the country, complicating efforts to curb COVID-19.
Most of the traumatic injuries related to alcohol abuse occur at night, the president said.
“Therefore, as an additional measure to reduce the pressure on hospitals, a curfew will be put in place between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.,” he said.
Under the curfew that will take effect on Monday, everyone will be required to stay at home, except those who need to travel to and from work or who need to seek urgent medical or other assistance during this time.
“As we head towards the peak of infections, it is vital that we do not burden our clinics and hospitals with alcohol-related injuries that could have been avoided,” Ramaphosa said.
Although these are unwelcome restrictions on people’s lives, “they are, however, necessary to see us through the peak of the disease,” he said.
After careful consideration of expert advice, there are still some activities that present too much of a risk at this stage, and for this reason, family visits and other social activities will not be allowed for now, he added.
“The surge of infections that our experts and scientists predicted over three months ago has now arrived,” he warned.
As of Sunday evening, South Africa recorded a cumulative number of 276,242 confirmed cases, according to Ramaphosa.
“We are now recording over 12,000 new cases every day,” the equivalent of 500 new infections every hour, he said.
Since the start of the outbreak in the country in March, at least 4,079 people have died from COVID-19, said Ramaphosa.
“What should concern us most is that a quarter of those who died passed away in the last week,” he said.
South Africa may have between 40,000 and 50,000 deaths before the end of this year, Ramaphosa said, citing projections by scientists and other scenario planners.
“We must make it our single most important task to prove these projections wrong,” he said.
To ensure that the country has the means to continue to respond effectively to this severe health emergency, the cabinet has approved the extension of the national state of disaster, imposed in mid-March, to Aug. 15, said Ramaphosa.