Johannesburg – As political parties are gearing up for the upcoming local government elections, President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered that only 500 people should be allowed at public gatherings in compliance with Covid-19 regulations and restrictions.
Ramaphosa said this on Sunday night when he moved the country from adjusted level 3 of the lockdown to level 2, and increased the number of people attending church and indoor gatherings from 50 to 250.
He told the nation that he had spoken to the leaders of political parties about the new regulations and had asked them to campaign responsibly ahead of the elections.
“These recommendations have been discussed at the National Coronavirus Command Council and with premiers, mayors and traditional leaders in the President’s Co-ordinating Council. They have also been discussed with the leaders of political parties represented in Parliament and with faith-based organisations.”
Based on these discussions, the Cabinet had therefore decided that the country should be moved from adjusted alert level 3 to adjusted alert level 2 with effect from today (Monday).
This means that: The hours of curfew will now start at 11pm and end at 4am.
− Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres will need to close by 10pm. This is to allow their employees and patrons to travel home before the start of the curfew.
– All gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 250 people indoors and 500 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 and social gatherings, as well as restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places.
– The sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption will be permitted between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Friday.
– Alcohol sales for on-site consumption will be permitted as per licence conditions up to 10pm. Alcohol consumption remains prohibited in public spaces.
Ramaphosa said these measures would be reviewed in two weeks’ time depending on the state of the pandemic.
“We will also be providing further information on an approach to ‘vaccine passports’, which can be used as evidence of vaccination for various purposes and events.
“Several important measures remain in place. It remains mandatory for every person to wear a face mask that always covers their nose and mouth when in public spaces.
“It is a criminal offence not to do so, and the managers of shops and restaurants as well as drivers of taxis and buses have a responsibility to ensure that their customers wear masks, and that the appropriate social distancing measures are in place.
“Funerals remain restricted to no more than 50 people, and, as before, night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are not allowed,” Ramaphosa said.
He, however, appealed to people to visit vaccination sites and get the jab, saying vaccinated people were far less likely to die due from Covid-19.
Ramaphosa said between the dates of August 14 and 20 this year, the Western Cape Department of Health compiled figures on people above the age of 60 who had contracted Covid-19.
“Only 30 out of 729 people above the age of 60 who were admitted to hospital for Covid-19 that week had been vaccinated. This means that 699 of those were not vaccinated.
“And of the 292 people above the age of 60 who died from Covid-19 that week, 287 of them were not vaccinated, meaning only 5 were vaccinated.”
He said 96% of the people over 60 who were hospitalised in the province and more than 98% of the people over 60 who died were not vaccinated.
A similar pattern had emerged in hospitals across the country.
“We know that a vaccinated person can still be infected and can still pass on the virus to others. But what we are seeing is that very few people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 are becoming severely ill with the disease, and very few are ending up in ICU or needing ventilation.
“Most importantly, people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 are far less likely to die of the disease,” he said.
Ramaphosa said South Africa was fast becoming a “vaccination site”, saying over a quarter of all adult South Africans have received at least one vaccine dose and more than 7 million people were fully vaccinated.
“In the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and the Western Cape, more than 1 in 5 adults is now fully vaccinated. The total number of vaccine doses administered in the country now stands at 14.6 million doses. We are now administering a million doses every 4 to 5 days,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the government has secured sufficient vaccines to vaccinate the entire adult population, and the supply of vaccines was no longer a constraint.
“However, we need to do much more. And we are doing more as we improve our ways of working. We are increasing the pace of vaccination and ensuring that we reach those that are most vulnerable to serious illness. While everyone aged 18 years and older is eligible to be vaccinated, we are concentrating our efforts and resources on those over 60 years of age and those with comorbidities.
“To date, over 57% of persons over 60 years of age have been vaccinated. This is a great achievement, but we need to reach them all. We are finding that more women than men are coming forward to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“Although the numbers are improving, men are still slow in coming forward to be vaccinated,” Ramaphosa said.
He, however, said the two provinces that stand out from the others are the Northern Cape and Free State, where the number of infections as a proportion of the population has remained relatively high for several months.