For all the latest news about the coronavirus, click here.

On Monday evening, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the nation in his second Family Meeting of the year…

Opening with the latest coronavirus statistics, the President painted a serious picture.

“Since New Year’s Day, we have recorded nearly 190,000 new coronavirus infections. The country has recorded more than 4,600 COVID-19 deaths so far this year.”

He noted that 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.

Concern over schools opening

The President acknowledged that parents and teachers were concerned about the reopening of private schools later this week, and public schools towards the end of the month.

“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,” said Ramaphosa. “The National Coronavirus Command Council is dealing with this issue, and we will provide guidance on this matter in the coming days.”

South Africa’s vaccine strategy is well underway

“Understandably, we all want to know when the vaccines will be arriving,” said the President. “As we work to secure the supply of sufficient doses in the midst of a huge global demand, we will do everything possible to ensure that the process is transparent and that all information is available.”

“I call on all South Africans to be part of the monumental undertaking to roll-out the coronavirus vaccine.”

“Although it will be difficult, complex and often frustrating, it is vital that we do this together, for the sake of our country and for the well-being of all our people.”

WHO slams rich countries who are buying “more vaccines than they need”

Infections exceeding first wave

“New infections in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape have grown fast and have now far exceeded the peak during the first wave,” said the President. “Infections in Gauteng are growing exponentially and are expected to increase further as more residents of Gauteng return to the province following the festive break.”

Hospitalisations higher than in the first wave of infections

In several parts of the country, hospital admissions have exceeded 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,” said the President. At least a third of all Covid-19 patients who have been admitted to hospital are on oxygen.

“Therefore, there is an intensive focus in our health facilities on increasing oxygen supply and activating field hospital beds.”

Hospital Covid chaos: Dad dies after desperate 6-hour search for vacant bed

New variant spreads faster

A new variant of the Covid-19 virus was first identified in South Africa in November.

“We do know that this new variant of the virus spreads much faster than the earlier variants,” said Ramaphosa. “This explains the fact that many more people have become infected in a far shorter space of time. 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.

Covid-19: Discovery of new variant which appears to be spreading fast across SA

Sticking to Level 3

In order to help curb the spread of the virus, Ramaphosa said that the country would continue under Level 3. “Most of the measures that were announced on 28 December 2020 will therefore remain in place.”

Measures that will remain:

1.     No meetings/gatherings:

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.

As before, this does not include funerals and other limited exceptions as detailed in the regulations, such as restaurants, museums and gyms.

2.     Limitation on funeral attendance:

Funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people, and there needs to be social distancing, hand sanitising and mask wearing.

 

3.     Slight change to curfew:

The hours of curfew will now start at 9pm and end earlier, at 5am.

4.     Booze ban stays in place in order to ensure health services can cope:

The sale of alcohol from retail outlets and the on-site consumption of alcohol is still not be permitted.

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,” said Ramaphosa. “It is vital that we continue to protect our health services at this crucial time.”

5.     Public areas closed:

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

6.     Reduction of congestion at ports:

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.

People will be however still be allowed to enter or depart the country for certain exemptions which will be contained in the regulations.

Gender-based violence and femicide is SA’s second pandemic

“Plans to implement social and behavioural change interventions are taking shape,” said Ramaphosa.

Government has been collaborating with several civil society formations to sensitise taxi drivers and taxi marshals on gender awareness, gender norms, toxic masculinity and GBVF in an effort to change behaviour.

“Faith-based organisations have initiated a campaign to sensitise religious leaders on patriarchy, gender-based violence and the church,” said the President. “This includes a programme where leaders are trained to accompany survivors of gender-based violence from the time they report the incident until they are referred for further service. Faith activists are also trained to support women through the court process.”

“Efforts are underway to support women’s economic empowerment especially during this period of COVID-19. This includes training for businesswomen to enable them to access public procurement opportunities.”

“To end harassment at work, South Africa is in the process of ratifying ILO Convention 190, which establishes a global standard for protection of women and other vulnerable groups in the world of work.”

 

READ MORE in Latest News: