As South Africa heads towards a peak in coronavirus (Covid-19) infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the sale of alcohol across the country will be suspended and a nationwide curfew will be re-instituted. 

“As we head towards the peak of infections, it is vital that we do not burden our clinics and hospitals with alcohol-related injuries that could have been avoided. This is a fight to save every life and we need to save every bed. We have therefore decided that in order to conserve hospital capacity the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol will be suspended with immediate effect,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address on Sunday evening. 

“There is now clear evidence that the resumption of alcohol sales has resulted in substantial pressure being put on hospitals, including trauma and ICU units, due to motor vehicle accidents, violence and related trauma. Most of these and other trauma injuries occur at night.” 

Ramaphosa said as an additional measure, a curfew would now be re-introduced across South Africa. 

“As an additional measure to reduce the pressure on hospitals, a curfew will be put in place between the hours of 9pm and 4am. Apart from people who need to travel to and from work or who need to seek urgent medical or other assistance during this time, everyone will be required to remain at home. The curfew will take effect from tomorrow, Monday, 13 July 2020 at 9pm,” said Ramaphosa. 

“We are taking these measures fully aware that they impose unwelcome restrictions on people’s lives. They are, however, necessary to see us through the peak of the disease. At the same time, we have decided to ease restrictions on activities that pose a lower risk of infection and are important for economic or educational purposes.” 

Ramaphosa announced that as part of resuming economic activity, all auctions would now be permitted subject to protocols similar to those that currently apply to agricultural auctions. 

“Parks will be open for exercise, but not for any form of gathering. After careful consideration of expert advice, there are still some activities that present too much of a risk to permit at this stage. For this reason, family visits and other social activities will unfortunately not be allowed for now. I know that this places a great burden on families and individuals and can cause great emotional strain, especially for those with elderly parents,” said Ramaphosa. 

File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

“It goes against our very nature as social beings, but it is a hardship that we must endure for that much longer to protect those we love and care for from this disease.” 

In a bid to ensure that South Africa has the means to continue to respond effectively to this “severe health emergency”, Ramaphosa said Cabinet had approved the extension of the national state of disaster to August 15. 

“There is no way that we can avoid the coronavirus storm. But we can limit the damage that it can cause to our lives. As a nation we have come together to support each other, to provide comfort to those who are ill and to promote acceptance of people living with the virus,” said Ramaphosa.

-ANA, editing by Jacques Keet