South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Sunday evening, May 30, a return to stricter measures against Covid-19, as the country is under imminent threat of a third wave of the pandemic.
Four of the country’s nine provinces, including Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg as well as the capital Pretoria, are already affected by a third wave, the head of state said in a televised address. “It may only be a matter of time before the country as a whole has entered a third wave”, he warned.
South Africa is officially the most affected country on the continent, with 1.65 million cases recorded for 56,363 deaths. “The number of positive Covid-19 tests more than doubled last month”, stressed Mr. Ramaphosa.
“It is particularly important today to delay the spread of the virus to allow as many people as possible to be vaccinated before the third wave reaches its peak”, he insisted.
Only 1% of the vaccinated population
From Monday, the curfew imposed so far between midnight and 4 a.m. will start from 11 p.m. Non-essential businesses, including bars, restaurants and gyms, must close by 10 p.m. Gatherings, including religious ceremonies and political gatherings, are limited to 250 people outdoors and 100 indoors.
South Africa has vaccinated just over 1% of its population and its campaign to immunize the elderly only started last week. Widely criticized for delaying the global race to acquire precious vaccines, the government says it has bought enough doses for at least 40 of the estimated 59 million South Africans.
Cyril Ramaphosa has repeatedly denounced a “Vaccine apartheid” favoring rich countries for access to vaccines. “The African continent is striving to increase its vaccine production capacity to achieve self-sufficiency”, he said.
South Africa and India are leading a campaign for a waiver of intellectual property rights to coronavirus vaccines, so that each country can produce doses. This request will be discussed at the G7 summit in June in Great Britain.