President Cyril Ramaphosa wears a mask ahead of his address to the nation on June 17 2020. Picture: GCIS/JAIRUS MMUTLE
President Cyril Ramaphosa wears a mask ahead of his address to the nation on June 17 2020. Picture: GCIS/JAIRUS MMUTLE

President Cyril Ramaphosa tightened regulations to prevent the spread of Covid, including the imposition of a longer curfew, restrictions on the sale of alcohol and closure of some of the country’s beaches.

However, in his address to the nation on Monday, Ramaphosa made it clear that the country wouldn’t return to the type of lockdown that was seen in the early days of the pandemic, as the government sought to find the balance between containing a resurgent virus and protecting economic activity. Despite a sharp upturn in the third quarter, SA’s GDP is set for its biggest contraction in about a century.

In another sign of the government’s more pragmatic approach, registered wineries and wine farms popular with tourists would be allowed to continue offering tastings and wine sales to the public for off-site consumption over weekends, while other alcohol retailers will again be restricted to between 10am and 6pm on Monday to Thursday.

The nighttime curfew will kick in an hour earlier, while restaurants, bars and taverns will have to close by 10pm.

"This exception is being made due to the vital contribution of these establishments to the tourism sector in several parts of the country," Ramaphosa said in relation to the wine farms.

The new restrictions will be reviewed in early January based on the state of the pandemic across the country. The announcement of tighter restrictions came just before many South Africans travel for the December holidays, a period the tourism industry was looking forward to after the devastation it suffered earlier in 2020.

Ramaphosa on Monday said 11 days earlier, when he addressed the nation, SA recorded over 4,400 new cases a day, but on Sunday that number almost doubled to nearly 8,000.

"There can no longer be any doubt — the country has entered a second wave of coronavirus infections," he said. "Given the rate at which new cases have grown over the last two weeks, there is every possibility that if we do not act urgently and if we do not act together, the second wave will be more severe than the first wave."

The daily average of new cases nationally over the past seven days was 74% higher than the previous seven days. In this time, the number of new cases has increased from a daily average of around 3,800 to just over 6,600 a day.

The Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng led the second wave.

This festive period usually sees a sharp increase in people travelling between provinces and through national borders, raising the risk that they could re-seed the epidemic in places where transmission is low.

Since SA hit its peak earlier this year, infections had plateaued and remained under control even as the economy was progressively opened, but over the past few weeks there has been a resurgence SA has started instituting localised restrictions in hotspots. Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape had already been declared a hotspot and has been subjected to stricter measures.

Ramaphosa said it would be joined by Sarah Baartman District in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route.

Restrictions on activities on the country’s beaches would be differentiated and would take into account different circumstances. All beaches and recreational parks in the Eastern Cape will be closed from December 16 until January 3.

In KwaZulu-Natal, beaches and public parks will be closed on what are traditionally the busiest days of the season: the holidays including Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. They would be shut until January 3.

The beaches and public parks in the Northern Cape and the Western Cape — with the exception of the Garden Route — would remain open to the public over the festive season.

Consumption of alcohol on beaches, parks and public places would be prohibited as well as festivals, live music, and live performances.

"A full lockdown was absolutely necessary to delay the epidemic but would not serve the same purpose now," Ramaphosa said.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on December 14 2020.

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