The government moved swiftly on Sunday night to gazette the renewed ban on alcohol sales and reinstatement of a night-time curfew minutes after these announcements were made by Pres Cyril Ramaphosa.
Unlike previous regulations that took a few days before being gazetted, government ensured that immediate meant immediate, catching several residents off-guard, with one remarking that despite the stormy conditions she had made an early morning trip just to see if all liquor stores were indeed closed on Monday morning. They were.
The new regulations also include a curfew between 21:00 and 04:00 and the legal requirement for citizens to wear face masks in public. Other changes see the taxi industry being allowed to operate at 100% capacity for short-distance travel. For long distances, the industry can operate at 70% capacity. The industry would also need to ensure compliance with the wearing of masks and sanitising passengers, as well as the opening of windows during travel.
The president said these measures were necessary as the country remained under Level 3 of the risk-adjusted national lockdown. He said returning to higher levels would have a devastating impact on the economy.
On Sunday the country recorded 12 048 new cases and an additional 108 deaths. At the weekend, the Western Cape had a total of 77 476 cases with the Overstrand standing at 1 071. Since the start of the local outbreak in March, some 4 080 people have died from COVID-19, with a quarter of all deaths reported in the last week. Sunday also saw 230 000 new cases of the virus recorded worldwide and South Africa moving into the 10th position in the list of countries with the most infections.
On the positive side, South Africa’s case fatality rate of 1.5% is among the lowest in the world. This is compared to a global average case fatality rate of 4.4%.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, on Monday gave more clarity on the new provisions.
“The regulations now enforce the mandatory wearing of a face mask, which includes a cloth face mask, homemade item, or another appropriate item that covers the nose and mouth, in public and in public places. Any employer, manager or owner of a building used by the public to obtain goods or services, will be responsible if any person enters and remains onsite without wearing a mask. The penalty, should they not take all reasonable measures to ensure masks are worn, is a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both such fine and imprisonment,” she said.
“We have reintroduced the prohibition on the sale, transportation and dispensing of alcohol, because the risks associated with alcohol are far too high and we must limit the pressures on our health care system. When there was an absolute prohibition on the sale of alcohol, the overall number of visits to trauma units in South Africa dropped from 42 700 to approximately 15 000 visits. Following the lifting of the prohibition on the sale, transportation and dispensing of liquor in Alert Level 3, health facilities have seen a substantial rise in alcohol-related trauma injuries and death, resulting in added strain on the capacity of health facilities,” according to Dlamini Zuma.
The minister also elaborated on some of the other regulations: Parks can now be used for exercising but beaches will remain closed. The prohibition of social gatherings such as visitation to families and friends stays in place, and no social gatherings other than funerals are permitted. Interprovincial travel will also again be subject to obtaining a permit.
The use of accommodation (such as hotels, bed and breakfasts, lodges) for leisure activities is prohibited. “At this stage we can only permit the use of such establishments for persons travelling for business purposes or where these facilities are used for quarantine or where there are remaining tourists. The establishments must also maintain a record of patrons,” she said.