South Africa has been placed on Adjusted Alert Level 2, as government introduces measures to delay the third wave of the virus.
Addressing the nation recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa said after several months of low transmission, the number of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) infections has risen sharply in several parts of the country over the past month.
“The provinces of Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Gauteng have reached the threshold of a third wave of infections.
“It may only be a matter of time before the country as a whole will have entered a third wave,” the President warned.
According to health experts, the rise in new infections is because of an increase in social gatherings where people are not observing health protocols.
These protocols include wearing masks, social distancing, ensuring adequate ventilation and limits on the number of people who attend gatherings.
Other sites of increased transmission are funerals and so-called ‘after tears’ parties, as well as camps and sporting activities at schools.
“Because rates of infection have been low for some time, and because we are all suffering from pandemic fatigue, we have tended to become complacent.
“We have not been as vigilant about wearing our masks all the time, we have not been avoiding crowded places and we have been socialising more. As a result, infections are surging again,” said President Ramaphosa.
He added that further restrictions are necessary to ensure that health facilities are not overwhelmed and that lives that can be saved are not lost.
“Delaying the spread of the virus is especially important now to allow as many people as possible to be vaccinated before the third wave reaches its peak.”
Adjusted Alert Level 2, which came into effect on 31 May, means that:
- the hours of curfew start at 11pm and end at 4am.
- non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres must close by 10pm. This is to allow employees and patrons to travel home before the start of the curfew.
- all gatherings are limited to a maximum of 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used. This includes religious services, political events, social gatherings, restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places.
Rules to follow
The President stressed that it is still compulsory for every person to wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth when in public spaces.
It is a criminal offence not to do so.
The owners and managers of public buildings, centres, shops, restaurants, taxis and buses must ensure that people on their premises or in their vehicles wear masks, and that the appropriate social distancing measures are in place.
“If you test positive for COVID-19, you must self-isolate at home for a period of 10 days from when you first developed symptoms.
“If you have been in contact with a person who has COVID-19, you must also self-quarantine for a period of 10 days following your exposure, even if you do not show any symptoms,” said President Ramaphosa.
Funerals remain restricted to no more than 100 people and night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are not allowed.
The third wave
The President said there is no way of knowing how severe the third wave will be or how long it will last.
“According to the scientists that advise government, the severity of this third wave will largely be determined by the amount of contact each of us has with other people.
“This means that each of us needs to think about all the people we come into contact with each day and do everything we can to limit those contacts.”
When it is unavoidable to be in contact with other people, it is important to observe all the health protocols by wearing a mask, keeping a distance from others and ensuring proper ventilation.
The President advised South Africans to postpone social engagements, avoid public spaces and to travel only when absolutely necessary.
“Gatherings are the greatest sources of transmission, whether it's weddings, funerals, social parties, religious services, political meetings or simply gatherings of family and friends.
“We must remember that the virus does not move from place to place by itself; it relies on the movement of people. The less we travel, the less the virus is spread.”
Indoor spaces should be avoided, as COVID-19 is spread through the air when a person speaks, coughs or sneezes.
The President called on South Africans to adhere to the restrictions and health protocols to flatten the curve of infections.
By doing so, the pressure on the hospitals will be reduced and many lives will be saved, he said.
“I ask you to summon your strength, your courage and your tenacity as South Africans to stand together and to hold back this third wave,” the President added.
“We have not been as vigilant about wearing our masks all the time, we have not been avoiding crowded places and we have been socialising more. As a result, infections are surging again.”