Cyril Ramaphosa. PIcture: GCIS
Cyril Ramaphosa. PIcture: GCIS

Stricter localised restrictions will only be implemented in Covid-19 hotspots, while the rest of the country continues to operate under the already established level 1 regulations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday announced that only Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape would be subjected to tighter restrictions, which include an earlier 10pm-4am curfew, curbs on the sale of alcohol from Monday to Thursday and reduced numbers for gatherings.

The president also raised concern about the resurgence of coronavirus cases in the Sarah Baartman District in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route in the Western Cape, but did not implement the tighter regulations in those areas.

Together with Nelson Mandela Bay the three areas accounted for the most new infections in the country.

The expected curbs in Western Cape, as speculated on, did not come to pass, and is a great relief for its tourism industry.

The limited nature of the new restrictions is a sign that the government recognises the need to tread lightly to try to avoid another hard lockdown, with the last one having led to a loss of more than 2-million jobs in the second quarter. The state also does not have the fiscal space for a relief package similar to the R500bn it unveiled to deal with the initial closure.

The closure of public schools and end-of-year festivities are going to see a lot of people travel between provinces and through the national borders, raising the risk that they could re-seed the epidemic in places where transmission is low at present.

The president urged South Africans to continue observing the prevention protocols to ensure no-one is infected.

Ramaphosa also announced that the national state of disaster has been extended to January 15.

In November, Ramaphosa announced that level 1 regulations would be amended to allow for borders to be opened to all tourists and allow for normal trading hours for the sale of alcohol. The tourism and alcohol sectors were able to start operating at full capacity after eight months of strict regulations, which cost billions of rand.

Coronavirus hotspots would be determined by giving consideration to the number of new cases per day, the testing rate, the percentage positivity rate, the number of active cases, the number of hospital admissions and the number of deaths.

For nearly 100 days, since the middle of August, SA managed to keep the rate of new infections below 2,000 a day. However, in the last three weeks there has been a marked rise in new infections, he said.

In the first week of November there were an average of 1,500 new cases a day, but that number had almost doubled to around 2,900. Ramaphosa said SA recorded more than 4,400 new infections on Wednesday, the largest daily increase since the middle of August.

"If we think of this pandemic like a bush fire, we need to quickly extinguish the flare-ups before they turn into an inferno," Ramaphosa said. "At the same time, we need to do all we can to keep the economy open and to push ahead with our reconstruction and recovery effort."

He said SA was participating in the World Health Organisation’s Covax facility, which aims to pool resources and share vaccine development risk.

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