PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa says government has decided to take some of the most drastic measures to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus in South Africa, including the reinstatement of the ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol.
Ramaphosa said a curfew will also be implemented from Monday 13 July from 9pm each night to 4am as an additional measure to reduce pressure on hospitals as most motor vehicle accidents and other trauma injuries occur at night.
He also announced that Cabinet has approved the extension of the national state of disaster to the 15th of August 2020, saying, however, that the country will remain on alert level 3 lockdown.
Ramaphosa made these announcements during a media briefing on Sunday evening.
“The storm is upon us. The coronavirus storm is far fiercer and more destructive than any we have known before. It is stretching our resources and our resolve to their limits,” he said.
“We have therefore decided that in order to conserve hospital capacity, the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol will be suspended with immediate effect.”
He added: “There is now clear evidence that the resumption of alcohol sales has resulted in substantial pressure being put on hospitals, including trauma and ICU units, due to motor vehicle accidents, violence and related trauma.”
Some of the measures announced by Ramaphosa will also include the mandatory wearing of masks, including the legal obligation of businesses to ensure those entering their workplaces are wearing masks.
Taxis undertaking long trips will have to adhere to a 70% occupancy while local trips will be permitted to increase capacity to 100%.
The country’s parks will be opened for exercise, but not for any form of gathering, and family visits and other social activities will unfortunately not be allowed for now.
Ramaphosa said more than a quarter of a million South Africans have been infected with coronavirus, and that many more infections have gone undetected.
“As of this evening, there are 276,242 confirmed cases in the country. We are now recording over 12,000 new cases every day. That is the equivalent of 500 new infections every hour,” said Ramaphosa.
“Since the start of the outbreak in March, at least 4,079 people have died from COVID-19. What should concern us most is that a quarter of those who died passed away in the last week.”
“We mourn the loss of each and every one of them, including some who have been in leadership positions in our country, such as Queen Noloyiso Sandile of the AmaRharhabe and North West MEC Gordon Kegakilwe.”
In an effort to stem the tide of the coronavirus, Ramaphosa also announced that he was deploying Ministers and Deputy Ministers to every district of the country to support the work of provincial health authorities.
Meanwhile, DA interim leader John Steenhuisen has reacted angrily to Ramaphosa’s address on Sunday night, saying government’s reintroduction of an alcohol ban and a night-time curfew is simply to distract from the real issue: the utter failure to build treatment and testing capacity.
“These ineffective gimmicks are an attempt to obscure the truth of our situation: that national government has completely and utterly wasted South Africa’s long and crippling lockdown,” said Steenhuisen.
“President Ramaphosa has broken his contract with the people of South Africa, putting both their lives and livelihoods at risk. He called on the nation to make huge sacrifices – their livelihoods, their freedoms, and sometimes their lives – to buy time for government to build treatment and testing capacity. The nation answered that call, yet government has nothing to show for it.”
“Only one province – the DA-run Western Cape – used the lockdown effectively to build field hospitals. And I mean properly equipped and staffed field hospitals, not rows of beds bought from furniture stores with no staff or oxygen infrastructure. Apart from the one field hospital in the Eastern Cape, built by the private sector, there are no up-and-running field hospitals in the other eight provinces.”
(Compiled by Inside Politics staff)