JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke on Monday on the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic which is the worst it has been since the country's first case was recorded in 2020.
"The number of new infections, hospital admissions and deaths is higher now than it has ever been since the first case was recorded in our country in March 2020. Since New Year’s Day, we have recorded nearly 190,000 new coronavirus infections," the president said.
"The country has recorded more than 4,600 COVID-19 deaths so far this year. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve recorded a cumulative number of more than 1.2million COVID-19 cases. We’ve recorded more than 33,000 deaths and more than 148,000 people have been admitted to hospital."
Ramaphosa said infections in Gauteng are growing exponentially and are expected to increase as residents return from travelling during the festive period.
"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," he said.
We must not let up on any of the health protocols we have been observing. If anything, the new variant means that we must be more diligent, more compliant and more consistent in following the necessary health guidelines.— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 11, 2021
On the first task – to slow the rate of transmission – we have all the tools we need.— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 11, 2021
We know what we need to do as individuals, as families, as companies, as communities.
The president said South Africans should avoid the three Cs: closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact with others.
He warned against the new variant which is more infectious than the first identified strain of the virus.
"Emerging information suggests that this new variant does not cause more severe illness than the original variants but it does put more pressure on the health system because the cases increase so rapidly and the hospitals get full more quickly."
The government has pledged to undertake a programme of vaccination to achieve herd immunity across South Africa and slowing the spread of the virus.
The president announced the following restrictions:
- Most indoor and outdoor gatherings will be banned including social gatherings, religious gatherings, political events, traditional council meetings and gatherings at sports grounds.
- Funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people.
- The hours of curfew will begin at 9 pm and at 5 am.
- It is compulsory for every person to wear a mask in a public space.
- The sale of alcohol from retail outlets and the on-site consumption of alcohol is not permitted.
- All beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks and public swimming pools in hotspot areas will be closed.
- Botanical gardens, national parks, and other parks where access control measures & entry limitations are in place may remain open to the public
- The 20 land ports of entry that are currently open will be closed until 15 February for general entry and departure.
People will still be allowed to enter or depart the country for:
- The transportation of fuel, cargo, and goods
- Emergency medical attention for a life-threatening condition
- The return of South African nationals, permanent residents or persons with other valid visas, diplomats
- The departure of foreign nationals
- Daily commuters from neighbouring countries who attend school in South Africa.
The full list of exemptions will be contained in the regulations.
President #Ramaphosa: Given the risk of widespread transmission, most indoor and outdoor gatherings will not be permitted. This includes social gatherings, religious gatherings, political events, traditional council meetings and gatherings at sports grounds. pic.twitter.com/nI4cV1vY5e— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) January 11, 2021
As before, this does not include #funerals and other limited exceptions as detailed in the regulations, such as #restaurants, #museums and #gyms. Funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people, and there needs to be social distancing, hand sanitising and mask wearing. pic.twitter.com/NRlL9QpjGW— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) January 11, 2021
He thanked religious leaders and faith-based organisations for their support and understanding.
"Not only have faith-based organisations had to limit or adjust the nature of worship and other activities, but they have also provided counselling, support, feeding schemes and other social services to communities."
Ramaphosa said the NCCC will provide guidance on the reopening of schools 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 and that these are adhered to," the president said.
The president outlined the country's vaccine strategy which he called the largest and most complex logistical undertaking in our country's history.
Around 40 million people in South Africa will require the vaccine to reach herd immunity.
Phase 1 of the vaccination strategy will prioritise around 1.2-million frontline health workers.
Phase 2 will prioritise essential workers such as teachers, police, municipal workers and other frontline personnel.
People in institutions like old age homes, shelters and prisons, people over 60 years of age and adults with co-morbidities will also be targeted in Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout that aims to innoculate 16-million people.
Phase 3, with increased manufacturer supplies, the government aims to vaccinate the remaining adult population of approximately 22.5-million people.
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.— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 11, 2021
It is estimated that Africa as a whole will need 1.5 billion doses to immunise the target of 60 per cent of its population.— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 11, 2021
Through intensive engagement with vaccine manufacturers, the Task Team has done tremendous work to secure vaccine does for countries on the continent.