South Africa tightens pandemic restrictions as new cases rise

South Africa COVID-19 /Getty Images

South Africa on Sunday introduced new COVID-19 restrictions to help curb the spread of the coronavirus as new cases continue to rise.

“After several months of low transmission, the number of infections has begun to rise sharply in several parts of the country,’’ President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.

“This is an increase of 31% on the previous week, and an increase of 66% on the week before that,’’ he said.

The president said that the country has seen a sustained increase of cases over the last four weeks, with the last seven days recording an average of 3,745 daily new infections.

In a bid to curb the spread and delay a looming third wave, the president said that the country will move from Level 1 to an adjusted Level 2 lockdown starting Monday.

He also announced new curfew hours, starting at 11 p.m. and ending at 4 a.m.

Other restrictions that the president announced include wearing a face mask that covers the nose and mouth at all times in public spaces is mandatory and not complying with this is a criminal offense.

Funerals are to remain restricted to no more than 100 people, and, as before, night vigils, and after-funeral gatherings are not allowed.

Bars and restaurants have to close by 10 p.m. for employees and patrons to leave before the curfew.

According to the Health Ministry figures, South Africa has recorded nearly 1.66 million cases, 56,363 deaths, and 1.5 million recoveries representing a recovery rate of 93.7%.

Ramaphosa said that with the new sharp increase in cases it may only be a matter of time before the country as a whole descends into a third wave.

“While the country is headed towards a third wave of infections, we do not yet know how severe this wave will be or for how long it will last,’’ he said.

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