President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation at 7pm on Sunday on what the cabinet has described as an imminent Covid-19 third wave.

The presidency confirmed this in a statement, saying the address follows meetings in recent days of the national coronavirus command council (NCCC), the president’s co-ordinating council (PCC) and the cabinet.

The government is said to be considering stricter lockdown measures, including an earlier curfew and further limits on gatherings.

Business Day understands that the national coronavirus command council, a body set up in 2020 to co-ordinate the government’s response as the pandemic reached SA, met on Tuesday and a series of high level consultations have happened this weekend.

Now, SA has a midnight to 4am curfew and gatherings are limited to 250 indoors and twice as many outside. There has been no indication from government to signal a fresh alcohol ban or the closure of borders.

Sources inside the NCCC say the government is considering an earlier curfew and smaller crowds.

Sunday's address comes amid a rise in infections and an increase in the death toll for SA — the hardest-hit country on the continent.

The country has seen a 30% rise in Covid-19 infections in recent days, with more than 4,700 new infections on Sunday alone. A third wave will occur when the seven-day moving average of new cases exceeds 30% of the previous wave’s peak, according to the definition used by the SA Covid-19 Modelling Consortium.

The daily infection rate topped 4,000 on Wednesday, compared with an average of between 1,000 and 1,500 for most of the year.

However, this is still lower than rates seen at the end of 2020, when daily infections topped 20,000, sparking a new round of restrictions, including an alcohol sales ban and the closure of beaches.

Ahead of the Easter holiday in April, the government took a softer stance.

The new wave of infections comes as SA’s vaccination drive finally gets off the ground in earnest, though the slow pace has led to questions about whether it would blunt a new wave of infections during the winter months.

The government has set a target to reach 67% of the population by the end of 2021 to achieve so-called herd immunity. So far, about 750,000 people have been vaccinated, though the programme is expected to pick up pace.

Minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni confirmed during a post-cabinet briefing on Thursday that Ramaphosa would address the nation “soon”. She said the government was concerned about the spike in infections, deaths and active cases of Covid-19 in recent weeks.

Gauteng, the Free State, Limpopo, the Northern Cape and the North West have seen a dramatic increase in new daily infections, which suggests some areas in these provinces have already entered a third wave.

“As cabinet, we are discussing and consulting on the measures to ensure we protect South Africans,” she said. Health minister Zweli Mkhize said last week that there had been a 17% rise in hospitalisations due to Covid-19.

Addressing the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday, Mkhize warned that if the infection rate continued to rise and spread to other provinces, the entire country could be affected by the third wave.

omarjeeh@businesslive.co.za

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