South Africa imposes fresh lockdown directives as COVID-19 cases exceed 1m

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South Africa has imposed fresh restrictions as the country has now exceeded one million coronavirus infections.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, at a briefing on Monday, said “cabinet has decided to put the country on an adjusted level three from level one with immediate effect”.

The level three restrictions include extension of curfew time from 9pm to 6am; ban on indoor and outdoor gatherings for the next two weeks; shutdown of businesses involved in the sale of alcohol; and prosecution of persons arrested for flouting the rule on compulsory wearing of face masks.

“All indoor and outdoor gatherings will be prohibited for 14 days from the date hereof, except for funerals and other limited exceptions as detailed in the regulations, such as restaurants, museums, gyms and casinos,” Ramaphosa said.

“A person who does not wear a mask could be arrested and prosecuted. On conviction, they will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and imprisonment.

“Night clubs and businesses engaged in the sale and transportation of liquor will not be allowed to operate. The level three restrictions will remain in place until 15 January, 2021.

“In effect, the adjusted level three regulations will keep the economy open while strengthening measures to reduce transmission. With a few exceptions, businesses may continue to operate as long as all relevant health protocols and social distancing measures are adhered to.”

The country has now reported 1,004,413 infections — the highest in Africa — after recording 9,502 new cases on Sunday.

Zwelini Mkhize, the country’s health minister, who confirmed the development, added that over 800,000 patients had recovered.

“Today, we have breached one million cumulative cases of COVID-19 in South Africa, with a cumulative of 1,004,413 cases reported. A cumulative of 6,445,318 tests have been conducted with 29,494 tests completed since the last report,” he said.

“Our recoveries currently stand at 844,874. This represents a recovery rate of 84.1 percent.”

Many countries, including the UK, France, Germany, have imposed travel bans to and from South Africa after a new variant of the coronavirus was discovered in the country.

Ramaphosa, who expressed concern about the new variant called 501.V2, said it “appears that it may be more contagious”, as more than 50,000 new cases have been reported since December 24.

He called for the cooperation of residents on strict adherence to the new regulations, adding that the country has been told to expect the first batch of vaccines in the second quarter of 2021.

“We are part of the first group of countries that will receive an allocation of vaccines from COVAX. We have been advised that we should expect the vaccines in the second quarter of 2021,” he said.

“We can confirm that we have signed off on the agreement with COVAX and the Solidarity Fund has made the initial payment of R283 million to the facility.”

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