Masks are mandatory, indoor and outdoor gatherings are prohibited and a curfew must be enforced.
South Africa has once again announced tighter restrictions to tackle the rise in coronavirus infections due to a new, faster-spreading variant.
Among other restrictions announced late Monday, indoor and outdoor gatherings will be banned and a curfew will be enforced from 9 p.m. (7:00 p.m. GMT) to 6:00 a.m. (04:00 GMT).
Only licensed workers, including medical and security personnel or emergency personnel, may travel during curfew.
“From now on, it is compulsory for everyone to wear a mask in a public space. A person who does not wear a cloth mask covering the nose and mouth in a public place will commit an offense, ”President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised speech.
“Upon conviction, they will be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both to a fine and to imprisonment.”
Ramaphosa also announced that non-essential establishments, including shops, restaurants, bars and all cultural venues, are to close at 8:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT), while the sale of alcohol in retail outlets and alcohol consumption on site will not be permitted. .
The new rules will last 14 days and could be revised in the coming weeks if they see a sustained drop in infections and hospitalizations, he added.
The South African Department of Health on Sunday reported a grim milestone of a million infections – the highest figure on the continent.
So far, the new virus has killed more than 27,000 people in South Africa.
The sweeping restrictions were imposed after authorities confirmed a new variant of coronavirus was found in circulation in the country.
Called 501.V2, the new strain was discovered by a team of scientists from across South Africa who followed the genetics of the virus.
The variant appears to be concentrated in the south and southeast of the country and dominates the results of samples collected since October.
“It was the doctors and health workers who called for these restrictions,” said Haru Mutasa of Al Jazeera, reporting from Port Elizabeth, which has now become the country’s coronavirus hotspot.
“They were saying they weren’t really surprised by the rise in infections, what surprised them was how quickly it happened,” she added.
The epidemic in the most affected country in Africa appears to be accelerating, the million mark crossed nine days after the country reported 900,000 cases.
Several hospitals and medical centers have reported that their wards are overflowing with coronavirus patients and many healthcare workers are canceling vacations to deal with the huge influx.
According to Mutasa, people did not abide by basic restrictions, traveling across the country, visiting friends and family without wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
“In the province of Eastern Cape […] people tell you they had up to seven people in the family who died from COVID. You hear stories of people who attended funerals and got sick, ”she says.