President Cyril Ramaphosa moves SA into adjusted alert level 4

Johannesburg – The South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the nation on Sunday evening on the government’s latest response to the coronavirus pandemic that the country and the rest of the world are still facing since last year.

The address followed a meeting held by the National Coronavirus Command Council.

Acting Minister of Health, Mmamoloko Kubayi, announced on Saturday that the Covid-19 variant, called Delta is currently being spread in the country.

“Previously we had communicated that the third wave peak is unlikely to surpass the second wave peak. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, our scientists, have discovered that we have a new variant that is prevalent in our country. This new variant is called that Delta,” she said.

On Sunday evening, during his address to the nation, Ramaphosa said the situation has gotten worse with SA seeing a massive resurgence of infections.

The delta variant has been detected in 5 provinces in South Africa, the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

“The evidence we have is that the Delta variant is rapidly displacing the Beta variant, which has been dominant in our country until now,” Ramaphosa said.

Delta Variant 

“We are concerned about the rapid spread of this variant.   Firstly, because it is more transmissible than previously circulating viruses, meaning it is easier to catch through person-to-person contact. Secondly, because it is more contagious, it can infect far more people.  As with the previous variants, you can pass it on without even knowing you have it.”

“Thirdly, there is now emerging scientific evidence that people previously infected with the Beta variant do not have full protection against the Delta variant, and may get re-infected.  Fourthly, because it is much more contagious, the measures we have so far adopted to contain the spread of the virus may no longer be sufficient to reduce transmission.”

“Reports from some countries, including on our continent, also suggest that infections and clinical illness in children may be more common with the delta variant, even as the overall rate of infection remains substantially lower than in adults,” Ramaphosa said.

Third-wave 

“The 1st wave lasted 15 weeks. The 2nd wave lasted 9 weeks. We don’t know how long this one will last, but indications are that it could last longer.   I know that is the last thing many of you want to hear. We have all had to endure great hardship over the past year and a half. We may have thought that with life slowly returning to normal, we could take a more casual approach to the public health regulations,” Ramaphosa further stated.

Ramaphosa said, “Our priority is to break the chain of transmission by reducing person-to-person contact and thereby help to flatten the curve.”

Adjusted Alert Level 4

Ramaphosa said that the country will be moved into Adjusted Alert Level 4.

“Based on scientific advice we received from the MAC and further consultation with our provinces and metros and traditional leaders, and on the recommendation of the NCCC, Cabinet has decided that the country should move to Adjusted Alert Level 4.”

“Cabinet decided that to ensure that our response is appropriate and proportionate to the current situation, the additional restrictions we are announcing this evening will be in place for the next 14 days. After 14 days, we will assess the impact of these interventions after 14 days to determine whether they need to be maintained or adjusted.”

The following measures are to be in place across the country from tomorrow, Monday, the 28th of June 2021 to Sunday, the 11th of July 2021:

All gatherings – whether indoors or outdoors – are prohibited. These include religious, political, cultural, and social gatherings.

Funerals and cremations are permitted, but attendance may not exceed 50 people and all social distancing and health protocols must be observed.

Night vigils, after-funeral gatherings, and ‘after tears’ gatherings are not allowed.

Public spaces, such as beaches and parks, will remain open. However, no gatherings will be permitted.

A curfew will be in place from 9 pm to 4 am, and all non-essential establishments will need to close by 8 pm.

The sale of alcohol both for on-site and off-site consumption is prohibited.

“Our Ministerial Advisory Committee has advised that the limited restrictions previously imposed were not that effective and that a prohibition will ease the pressure that is placed on hospital services by alcohol-related emergency incidents,” Ramaphosa elaborated.

Travel Ban on Gauteng:

“Because of the burden of infections in Gauteng, travel in and out of the province for leisure purposes will be prohibited. This does not include work, business or commercial travel, transit through airports or for the transport of goods,” Ramaphosa announced.

“If you are currently not in your place of residence, you will be allowed to return home to or from Gauteng,” Ramaphosa further said.

Visits to old age homes, care facilities, and other ‘congregant settings’ will be restricted.

Restaurants

Restaurants and other eateries will only be permitted to sell food for take-away or delivery. This is because it is not possible for patrons to wear masks while eating or drinking in these establishments.

Schools 

The closure of schools and other educational institutions for the winter holidays will be brought forward. Schools will start closing from this Wednesday, the 30th of June, and all schools will be expected to be closed by the end of the week, on Friday.

“Contact classes at tertiary institutions will end by Wednesday, 30th of June, with limited access to the institutions. Residences will however remain open. The Ministers of Basic Education & Higher Education, Science & Innovation will provide further details on these arrangements,” Ramaphosa said.

Work from home 

“The measures that we are putting in place now are designed to allow as much economic activity to continue as possible, while containing the spread of the virus. Most businesses will continue to operate at full capacity and should not be affected,” Ramaphosa said.

“All employers must allow their staff to work from home wherever possible, and should postpone all non-essential travel and workplace gatherings.”

“Government will also be putting in place measures to reduce physical attendance of its employees at workplaces while limiting the disruption of government activities and services,” Ramaphosa announced.

“Our focus is on limiting social contacts while preserving the economy. I want to emphasise that it remains mandatory for every person to wear a face mask that always covers their nose & mouth when in public spaces.   It is a criminal offence not to do so.”

“The owners and managers of public buildings, centres, shops, restaurants, taxis and buses all have a responsibility to ensure that people on their premises or in their vehicles wear masks,” Ramaphosa further said.

Curfew: 

Health system in SA

“As we implement these restrictions, we are continuing to work to strengthen the capacity of our health system. In Gauteng, the loss of significant capacity due to the ongoing closure of the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital is adding strain to other hospitals,” Ramaphosa said.

“We are doing everything we can to provide additional bed capacity and speed up the re-opening of Charlotte Maxeke hospital,” he further said.

“At present, Gauteng has made available 830 additional beds by postponing elective surgery and another 400 beds constructed with alternative building technology that are now being activated.”

Oxygen 

“We have been engaging with the producers of medical oxygen to increase their production to accommodate the anticipated increase in cases.”

“We are constantly monitoring PPE stocks and medicine stock availability so that we can intervene where we see declines in stock levels. The Gauteng Department of Health is recruiting additional human resources to support increased workload,” Ramaphosa said.

“The Solidarity Fund has provided R16 million to support the recruitment and placement of additional nurses in Gauteng hospitals to complement the military health team that has been deployed,”

Vaccinations 

“In the last week, the daily vaccination rate surpassed 100,000.   In the last three days, we have received an additional 1.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine through the COVAX facility,” Ramaphosa said.

“In line with our national roll-out plan, over 950,000 health care workers have now been vaccinated across the country and the registration and vaccination of this cohort continues.The second phase of our roll out has also gone well with the drive for the registration and vaccination of the over 60 year old group continuing to yield good results. Whilst we have yet to reach all of the estimated 5 million citizens in this group, each province has now embarked on social mobilisation drives to assist our elderly to register and receive their vaccination,” Ramaphosa said.

SAHPRA 

“We must remember that SAHPRA is an independent regulator that focuses only on scientific evidence to ensure safety, quality and efficacy in the interest of public health.  SAHPRA must be allowed to do its job without intimidation or political influence so that when vaccines are approved the public can be confident that the vaccines are safe, of good quality and will work.”

Moving Forward 

Ramaphosa said, “There may be uncertainty over the trajectory of the pandemic, but there is one thing that is certain.   We can and we must continue to protect ourselves in the best way we know how.”

“The tried and tested public health measures that have been in place remain our best chance at fighting this pandemic. They are not complicated, difficult or expensive,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa concluded his address by urging South Africans to follow all the health and safety protocols that have been put in place to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

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