Johannesburg, July 12 (PTI) South Africa on Sunday extended COVID-19 restrictions for a fortnight with certain relaxations amid rising infections.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday evening that restrictions under Level 4 of the country's five-level lockdown strategy would continue for another fortnight.
The country, however, allowed restaurants, eateries, gyms and fitness centres to reopen with 50 per cent capacity and adherence to Covid protocols.
Earlier, restaurants and eateries could only offer takeaway services.
Agricultural livestock and game auctions will also be allowed now, subject to certain conditions.
All social, political, religious and other gatherings remain prohibited, while the 9 pm to 4 am curfew and a ban on alcohol sales will remain in place.
Schools will remain closed until 26 July.
'These measures were urgent and they were absolutely necessary to contain the third wave, which is being fuelled by the new Delta variant. It remains our priority to break the chain of transmission by limiting social contact,' Ramaphosa said.
'As things stand now, infections remain extremely high. With the fast-spreading Delta variant, we are experiencing a third wave that is more severe than the first and second waves.' Ramaphosa said that for the last two weeks, the country has consistently recorded an average of nearly 20,000 daily new cases. At present, the country has over 2,00,000 active COVID-19 cases.
In the last two weeks, over 4,200 South Africans have lost their lives to COVID-19.
The economic hub of Gauteng accounts for more than half of new infections, while cases are rapidly increasing in the provinces of Western Cape, Limpopo, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
Ramaphosa also expressed concern about the pressure on the health system.
'By next week, daily hospital admissions across the country are likely to reach the levels observed during the peak of the first two waves. COVID-19-related deaths in hospitals are also increasing and have surpassed those observed at the peak of the first wave,” he said and asserted the government would step up the vaccination process.
'Our national vaccination programme is expanding at a rapid pace. To date, over 4.2 million people in South Africa have received a vaccine dose, with one million of these having been done over the past seven weekdays. The pace of vaccination has more than doubled in the last month, and will continue to increase,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the government and the private sector are working together to augment vaccination capacity. Currently, 1,90,000 people are vaccinated each weekday.
'We are working to ensure that vaccination sites are located closer to where people live to make it easier for them. We will continue to work with community, religious and traditional leaders to mobilise communities to get vaccinated,' he stated.
The president said that one of the major challenges the country faces is the availability of vaccine doses.
'This has been a challenge both for South Africa and the rest of the African continent.
'In the last few days, the African Union...and the European Union have reached a historic agreement that will significantly improve the supply of vaccines to our country and our sister countries on the African continent.
'Through this agreement, Aspen will be delivering over 17 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to South Africa and other African countries over the next three months, commencing in late July. This number will double monthly from October.
'We are negotiating that in time the drug substance itself would be produced here in South Africa, so that we have a fully-owned African vaccine manufactured on African soil, in a number of countries on our continent,” he said.
Ramaphosa also welcomed the announcement by President Joe Biden that the United States would be donating 15-20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to African countries through the COVAX facility.
The Health Ministry reported 21,610 new cases overnight, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,179,297.
A further 265 people succumbed to Covid-related complications overnight, bringing total deaths so far to 64,138. PTI FH SMN SMN