South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has reimposed a ban on alcohol sales and ordered the closure of all bars as part of new restrictions to help the country battle a resurgence of the coronavirus, including a new variant.
In a nationwide address, Ramaphosa also announced an extension of its nighttime curfew so all residents must be at home from 9 pm until 6am.
“We now have to flatten the curve to protect the capacity of our healthcare system to enable it to respond effectively to this new wave of infections,” Ramaphosa said.
“These restrictions may be reviewed in the next few weeks if we see a sustained decline in infections.”
The president said that wearing masks is mandatory and that anyone found not wearing a mask in a public place will be subject to a fine or a criminal charge punishable by a possible jail sentence.
Ramaphosa said the increased restrictions are necessary because of a surge in COVID-19 infections which has pushed South Africa’s cumulative virus cases above one million.
Commercial centre Gauteng, tourist favourite Western Cape and coastal Eastern Cape are the worst hit provinces, and accounted for most of areas now considered hot spots. Areas in the northern Limpopo province were also added to the list.
Ramaphosa announced the new measures after a Cabinet meeting and an emergency meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council.
The country surpassed the one million mark on Sunday night when it reported 1,004,413 cumulative cases of COVID-19, including 26,735 deaths.
South Africa is battling a variant of COVID-19 that is more infectious and has become dominant in many parts of the country, according to experts.
The new variant, referred to as 501.V2, was discovered by a network of scientists around South Africa who have been tracking the genetics of the virus. It has led to a number of countries, including Britain and Germany, banning flights from the country.