We've become complacent - Ramaphosa

President urges SA to observe Covid rules as restrictions tighten

Isaac Mahlangu Senior reporter
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

Tougher measures are in force from today amid a surge in Covid-19 infections that have put the country on the cusp of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last night that as a result, the curfew will start at 11pm and end at 4am. The move, he said, is aimed at delaying the peak of the third wave to ensure that many people get vaccinated.

Ramaphosa said the country would be put on adjusted alert level 2 with effect from today to address the increasing number of infections and hospital admissions across the country. 

He said non-essential establishments such as restaurants, bars and fitness centres will need to close by 10pm. This, he said, is to allow their employees and patrons to travel home before the start of the curfew. 

All gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. These include religious services, political events and social gatherings as well as restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places.

Ramaphosa said four provinces were already in the third wave due to the sustained Covid-19 infection increases in the past month.

The provinces that have reached the threshold are the Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Gauteng.

Active covid-19 cases are now around 50,000.

Ramaphosa said restrictions are necessary to ensure that health facilities are not overwhelmed and that lives that could be saved are not lost.

“Delaying the spread of the virus is especially important now to allow as many people as possible to be vaccinated before the third wave reaches its peak,” he said.

"Every week that we delay the peak of the third wave allows us to vaccinate hundreds of thousands more people and may well save their lives. This is why it is crucial for us to act now, and to act together, to limit the spread of the virus by wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings and indoor spaces, keeping a distance from others and washing or sanitising our hands regularly.”

He said the proportion of Covid-19 tests that are positive had more than doubled in the last month from about 4% to more than 11%, even as testing was increased across the country.

The president said slowing down the rate of infections was crucial to allow as many South Africans to be vaccinated.

He slammed South Africans for being complacent and not sticking to Covid-19 protocols, including limiting gatherings and wearing face masks.

“Other sites of increased transmission are funerals and so-called ‘after tears’ parties as well as camps and sporting activities at schools,” he said.

“Because rates of infection have been low for some time and because we are all suffering from pandemic fatigue, we have tended to become complacent.”

Ramaphosa said South Africans have “not been as vigilant about wearing our masks all the time, we have not been avoiding crowded places and we have been socialising more”.

He said the most important priority was to scale up the vaccination programme to reach as many people as possible.

Dr Waasila Jassat a public health specialist from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said the increase in positive Covid-19 cases “has shown that a few provinces have entered or are about to enter the third wave this week”.

“What we do hope is that we can slow the increase so that the hospitals are not overwhelmed because we know from our analysis that when admissions numbers are very high, mortality rates are higher because of the pressure on the health system,” Jassat said.

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