Cyril Ramaphosa keeps SA on adjusted level 3 lockdown, vaccines to be rolled out in phases

Johannesburg – South African president Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday evening, to brief the public on government’s latest response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The president said that the country recorded more than 190 000 new covid-19 infections and more than 4600 deaths this year.

Ramaphosa emphasized the extent of the impact of the second wave is having on the country.


Ramaphosa said, “As a proportion of the population, the province with the highest average number of cases over the last seven days is KwaZulu-Natal, followed by Western Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. New infections in KZN and the Western Cape have grown fast and have now far exceeded the peak during the first wave. Infections in Gauteng are growing exponentially & are expected to increase further as more residents of Gauteng return to the province following the festive break.”

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“However, we are encouraged that the rate of new infections in the Eastern Cape, while still high, is lower now than they were in the middle of December. In several parts of the country, hospital admissions are also much higher now than during the first wave.”

“There are currently over 15,000 people with COVID-19 in hospitals nationally, placing a considerable strain on health facilities, personnel and equipment.   Around a third of all COVID-19 patients in hospitals are on oxygen.”

Ramaphosa went on to say there is an intensive focus in health facilities on increasing oxygen supply and activating field hospital beds.

“Additional posts that were vacant are being filled, and PPE stocks are being jointly monitored with the Office of Health Standards Compliance,” Ramaphosa further said.

“We must therefore avoid what is described as the 3 Cs – closed spaces, crowded places & close contact with others. Because the new variant can infect people more easily, it is vital that we become more cautious about the places we go to & the number of people we interact with,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa raised the issues of funerals, which has been identified as super spreader events.

“Providing a fitting send-off for a departed loved one is deeply ingrained in all of us. There are certain rituals that we perform in line with our respective cultures and traditions; not just at the funeral itself but in the days leading up to the burial.”

“But these are all things we simply cannot do at this time. We are in the grip of a deadly pandemic and all these activities that would normally take place are just increasing our exposure to risk – for ourselves, for the bereaved family and for our own families at home.”

“There will be a time when we can go to the home of the deceased to pay our respects, and to sympathise properly with our neighbours, friends and relatives. But for now, it is best and safer to stay at home.”

“Funerals have become a death trap for many of our people.”

Ramaphosa announced that the lockdown level will not change and remain on adjusted level 3.

The president said, “Based on the recommendations of the National Coronavirus Command Council, Cabinet has decided to maintain the country on adjusted alert level 3. Most of the measures that were announced on 28 December 2020 will therefore remain in place.”

 

 

Alcohol restrictions: 

Ramaphosa said, “Health services in several parts of the country reported that the prohibition of alcohol sales had significantly reduced the number of trauma cases seen in our hospitals over the New Year period. It is vital that we continue to protect our health services.”

Beaches and dams: 

All beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks and public swimming pools in hotspot areas will be closed. As before, botanical gardens, national parks & other parks where access control measures & entry limitations are in place may remain open to the public.

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Land Port closures: 

To reduce congestion and the high risk of transmission, Cabinet has decided that the 20 land ports of entry that are currently open will be closed until the 15th of February for general entry and departure.

These include the six busiest border posts, which are Beitbridge, Lebombo, Maseru Bridge, Oshoek, Ficksburg and Kopfontein.

Ramaphosa further added, “It is necessary that we keep the Alert Level 3 measures in place until we have passed the peak of new infections and we are certain that the rate of transmission has fallen enough to allow us to safely ease the current restrictions.”

Religious gatherings: 

Ramaphosa said, “I wish to express my appreciation to the religious community in particular for its support and understanding throughout this pandemic.”

“Not only have faith-based organisations had to limit or adjust the nature of worship and other activities, they have also provided counselling, support, feeding schemes and other social services to communities.”

“At a time when people need both material and spiritual comfort, it is indeed unfortunate that the restrictions on religious and other gatherings have to remain.”

“Research has identified several risks that arise from religious services and other gatherings. These include the risks associated with enclosed spaces, large groups, close proximity to others, staying for a long time in one place, and loud talking and singing.”

“We will continue our discussions with religious leaders on how best to safely meet the desire of many our people to worship in congregation while working together to preserve life.”

Education: 

Ramaphosa said on the reopening of schools, “As schools and other educational institutions prepare to begin the new academic year, there is understandably concern about whether this is advisable in the midst of a second wave of infections.”

“The NCCC is dealing with this issue, & will provide guidance on this matter in the coming days. As the country returns to work after the festive break, it is essential that all places of work ensure that they continue to have safety protocols in place & that these are adhered to.”

Vaccines: 

“Our second task as we chart our path to recovery is to achieve immunity across our population through a massive programme of vaccination. The development of several effective vaccines is the most significant and most promising advance since the onset of the global pandemic.”

“We have put in place a comprehensive vaccination strategy to reach all parts of the country. This will be the largest and most complex logistical undertaking in our country’s history.”

“It will be far more extensive than our HIV treatment programme or even our national, provincial and local elections in terms of the number of people who have to be reached within a short space of time.”

It will require the active involvement of all spheres of government, all sectors of society and all citizens and residents of our country.

“Given the massive global demand for vaccines and the vastly greater purchasing power of wealthier countries, we are exploring all avenues to get as many vaccine doses as soon as possible.”

“While there are several promising negotiations with a number of different manufacturers that still need to be concluded, we have to date secured 20 million doses to be delivered mainly in the first half of the year.”

“We will make further announcements as we conclude our negotiations with vaccine manufacturers.”

Phases for rollout of vaccines: 

Phase 1:  “With the first batch of vaccines, we will prioritise around 1.2 million front line health workers.”

Phase 2: “When more vaccines arrive, we will prioritise essential workers such as teachers, police, municipal workers and other frontline personnel. We will also prioritise people in institutions like old age homes, shelters and prisons, people over 60 years of age and adults with co-morbidities. The total number we plan to reach in this phase is around 16 million people.”

Phase 3: “With increased manufacturer supplies, we will then vaccinate the remaining adult population of approximately 22.5 million people. We will then have reached around 40 million South Africans, which is considered to approximate herd immunity.”

Watch the President’s full address below: 

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