Four of the nation’s nine provinces, including Gauteng, which boasts Johannesburg and Pretoria, are already battling a third wave of infections.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will again impose stricter measures against COVID-19, fearing that the whole country will soon face a third wave of pandemic.
Four of the nation’s nine provinces, including Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria and has the largest population, are already battling a third wave of infections, Ramaphosa said Sunday.
“It may be a matter of time before the country as a whole has entered a third wave,” he said.
South Africa is officially the most affected country on the continent, with more than 1.65 million cases and 56,363 deaths.
“The number of infections has started to rise sharply in various parts of the country,” the president said as hospital admissions also increase.
“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 added.
The country recorded 4,515 new cases in the last 24 hours and Ramaphosa said the “positivity rate” among the tests conducted now was “a cause for concern”.
Restrictions, starting Monday, will force non-essential establishments such as restaurants, bars and fitness centers to close at 22:00 local time (20:00 GMT), as the curfew will be extended by one hour to start at 23:00 and finish at 4:00.
Meetings, including political and religious events, will be limited to 250 people outdoors and 100 indoors.
Authorities failed to re-impose some strict measures, such as limits on people’s movements during the day and a ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products, in effect at times last year.
South Africa has experienced two previous rises in infections, the first in mid-last year and a much worse second wave in December and January, when the emergence of a variant pushed infections and deaths to levels above the first wave.
Currently, the virus followed “the same trajectory” as those waves, Ramaphosa said.
Experts have warned that this wave, which comes with the winter in the southern hemisphere, could be even worse.
The increase in cases also drew more attention to the launch of vaccines in South Africa. Only 1.5% of the country’s 60 million people have received a vaccine.
The government, on fire for not buying vaccines quickly, says it has paid doses to cover 40 million of the 59 million South Africans, or enough to achieve herd immunity.
Ramaphosa has repeatedly condemned “vaccine apartheid,” as rich countries buy most doses of vaccine.
“As an African continent, we are moving forward with efforts to expand our vaccine manufacturing capacity with the goal of being self-sufficient in vaccine production,” he said.
South Africa and India are campaigning to end patent rights on coronavirus vaccines to help all countries manufacture their own supplies.
The G7 summit of rich nations will discuss the issue at a summit in the UK next month.