• Twenty land ports of entry will be closed for general traffic, with a few exceptions, to reduce people being exposed to Covid-19 in congested areas. 
  • Alcohol sales will remain banned and the curfew will remain in place, but it will end an hour earlier, for now. 
  • About 20 million vaccines are expected to reach South Africa in the first half of the year. 

Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are set to remain largely unchanged for the next month, but land borders will be closed as long queues and congestion there have heightened the risk of infection.

“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,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his televised update on the Covid-19 restrictions on Monday night.

He added the wait at the border posts by people waiting to be processed or tested had exposed many to infection.

Ramaphosa said the country would remain on the adjusted alert Level 3 that was announced on 28 December, which means alcohol sales would remain banned for now, despite lobbying by the industry for some concessions.

He added pictures of Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital’s trauma unit in Soweto, which was empty for the first time on New Year’s Day, showed alcohol resulted in behaviour that caused trauma.

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

Over the past week, the government has held consultations with religious leaders, community-based organisations, business, labour and representatives of provincial and local government as well as traditional leadership on the impact of these measures.

Measures that are set to remain in place include the ban on social, religious, political and sport gatherings, while funerals will remain limited to 50 people.

Gyms, restaurants and museums are among the establishments still permitted to remain open.

The curfew will stay at 21:00 but will now end an hour earlier at 05:00, while mask-wearing in a public space will remain compulsory.

Beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks and public swimming pools will remain closed, while botanical gardens, national parks and other parks, where access control measures and entry limitations are already in place, will remain open.

Gazetted

Amendments to the regulations are set to kick in once they have been gazetted, which is expected to happen this week.

Ramaphosa said the number of infections, hospital admissions and deaths was at its highest now, and the rapid spread of infections was due to the new Covid-19 variant that was discovered in South Africa in November.

Since the start of the pandemic, South Africa has recorded more than 1.2 million cases, more than 33 000 deaths while more than 148 000 people have been admitted to hospital.

Of the 15 000 people currently in hospital, a third require oxygen, which Ramaphosa said was “placing a considerable strain on health facilities, personnel and equipment”.

The province with the highest average number of cases over the last seven days was KwaZulu-Natal, followed by the Western Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

The president added South Africa was in the process of securing vaccines through the World Health Organisation’s Covax facility, African Union’s vaccine initiative and direct engagement with vaccine manufacturers.

To date, Ramaphosa said, the country had secured 20 million doses of vaccines to be delivered “mainly in the first half of the year”, and it aimed to vaccinate at least 40 million people – or 67% of the population – the number scientists currently believed would bring about “herd immunity” or “population immunity”.

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