JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa will tighten COVID-19 restrictions for 14 days as current containment measures are insufficient to cope with the speed and scale of new infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.
The country, the worst-hit on the African continent in terms of recorded cases and deaths, is in the grip of a “third wave” of infections.
It recorded almost 18,000 new cases on Saturday, approaching the peak of daily infections seen in a second wave in January, and local scientists say the Delta coronavirus variant first identified in India seems to be spreading fast.
“Additional restrictions are necessary… Our focus is on limiting social contacts while preserving the economy,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.
Under the measures announced, all gatherings will be prohibited, there will be a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. and the sale of alcohol will be banned.
Schools will start closing from Wednesday but beaches and parks will remain open. Restaurants will only be able to sell food for takeaway or delivery.
“We will assess the impact of these interventions after 14 days to determine whether they need to be maintained or adjusted,” Ramaphosa said.
South Africa recently received 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine via the COVAX Facility and an additional 1.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the president added.
So far the vaccine rollout in South Africa has been slow, with only around 2.7 million doses administered among a total population of 60 million.
Faced with opposition protests, the government has set a target of more than doubling the rate of daily vaccinations over the next month.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Tanisha HeibergEditing by Gareth Jones)