South Africa tightens restrictions; officers say pupil events are fueling new circumstances.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a number of new restrictions as the country enters a second wave of coronavirus, with infections expected to increase further over the Christmas period.
Alcohol sales will be restricted, curfews will be in place from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., and indoor gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited across the country. There will be even stricter restrictions in areas with the highest number of cases, including closing beaches and public parks in some areas, Ramaphosa said in a televised address on Monday.
Four provinces are driving the rise in cases: Eastern Cape; Gauteng, the economic heart of the country; KwaZulu-Natal; and Western Cape, known for its wine routes and stunning beaches. Before the holiday season, when many gather by the sea, the beaches on the Eastern Cape and along the Garden Route in the Western Cape will be closed.
“The festive season now poses the greatest threat to the health and well-being of our nation,” Ramaphosa said on his broadcast.
The president warned that the resurgence threatened to overwhelm the South African health system, noting that “if we don’t act urgently and if we don’t act together, the second wave will be more severe than the first”.
South Africa, the most developed economy in the sub-Saharan region, has recorded more than 866,000 coronavirus cases, according to a New York Times database. The average number of new daily cases has increased from around 3,800 a week ago to more than 6,800, according to the database and government statistics. Officials said another problem is the fact that new infections in young people are highest for the first time since the pandemic began.
The trend is being driven by student “anger events” – a series of parties with alcohol or gatherings in nightclubs and festivals, said South African Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize in a radio interview on Monday.
Dr. Mkhize said the large number of these parties failing to adhere to social distancing, adequate ventilation and other mitigation measures have led to several so-called super-spreader events. Nearly 1,000 students tested positive after a big party in the southeastern coastal town of Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal province earlier this month.