South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced further restrictions to contain a resurgence in coronavirus infections in the country.
The restrictions, arrived at after a meeting with Cabinet and provincial authorities, take effect at midnight on Monday.
The nationwide curfew was extended from 11pm to 4am and non-essential establishments, including restaurants and bars, will have to close at 10pm.
Additionally, the sale of alcohol from retail outlets will only be allowed between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday.
Authorities will also be mandated to ensure tougher enforcement of the current restrictions (Level 1) across the country during the festive season and thereafter.
Restrictions on the number of people at gatherings were also announced. Religious gatherings may not exceed 50 percent of the capacity of a venue, with a maximum of 100 people indoors and 250 people outside. All post-funeral gatherings have been banned indefinitely.
Ramaphosa noted that gatherings, especially social gatherings and parties, were the largest source of outbreaks.
Moreover, in areas with the highest rate of infection, such as KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, beaches and public parks will be closed for the duration of the festive season from December 16 to January 3. However, beaches and parks which will remain open to the public will only be open between 9am and 6pm.
Drivers of public transport must ensure all passengers wear a mask and employers must ensure all employees wear masks.
The restrictions are set to be reviewed next month depending on the state of the pandemic in the country.
Ramaphosa said the measures were necessary as citizens had failed to adhere to non-pharmacological COVID-19 measures resulting in a second wave of infections.
“Many of our friends, relatives and co-workers will be infected, some will get severely ill and some, tragically, will die. Unless we do things differently, this will be the last Christmas for many, many South Africans,” Ramaphosa noted.
Last week, Minister of Health Dr. Zweli Mkhize said the country was in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic.
South Africa has so far reported 860,964 confirmed coronavirus cases and 23,276 deaths.