South Africa extends alcohol ban, curbs travel amid virus surge
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa extended a prohibition on alcohol sales and restricted travel through border posts as the nation’s hospitals struggle to cope with soaring coronavirus infections.
The country will remain on virus alert level 3, and the alcohol ban that was due to expire on January 15 will remain in place, Ramaphosa said on Monday in a televised address. Twenty land border posts will be closed to most travelers until Feb. 15, public gatherings other than funerals won’t be allowed, and a nationwide curfew will be enforced from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., he said.
“The pandemic in our country is now at its most devastating,” Ramaphosa said. “We must unite to overcome the grave and persisting crisis our country faces.”
The pandemic and restrictions imposed to contain it have devastated Africa’s most industrialized economy and the extension of curbs that came into effect at the height of the holiday season bode ill for efforts to engineer a rebound. Varying restrictions on alcohol sales have been implemented since an initial lockdown was imposed in late March, helping lower hospital admissions from vehicle accidents and alcohol-related violence.
The country, which has detected a second and more infectious strain of the virus known as 501.V2, has reported more than 119,000 new infections since January 1, bringing the cumulative total to more than 1.23 million.
“If anything, the new variant means we must be more vigilant and diligent,” Ramaphosa said. “We must never see ourselves as being totally helpless. Our actions do have an impact on the direction and extent of the disease.”
The government last week announced it had struck a deal for an initial 1.5 million doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford from The Serum Institute of India Ltd., with first shipments set to arrive this month. It will aim to inoculate two-thirds of the population by the end of the year.
Ramaphosa said the government has secured 20 million vaccine doses, with the bulk of them due to arrive in the first half. He didn’t provide details of the additional supply deals.
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