JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa will reimpose a ban on the sale of alcohol and a nighttime curfew to reduce pressure on its hospitals as coronavirus infections rise rapidly, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.
Ramaphosa’s government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in late March and delayed a surge in infections, but it has since eased many restrictions over fears for its struggling economy.
South Africa has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa and is now recording the fourth-largest daily increase in new cases worldwide.
Ramaphosa said in a televised address that the country could not afford for its hospitals and clinics to be burdened with avoidable alcohol-related injuries.
“This is a fight to save every life, and we need to save every bed,” he said. “The coronavirus storm is far fiercer and more destructive than any we have known.”
The nighttime curfew will last from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. and take effect from Monday, apart from for those travelling to or from work or seeking medical help.
Regulations on the wearing of masks will be strengthened, but the country will remain on the third level of its five-level coronavirus alert system.
Family visits and social activities remain banned.
Ramaphosa said current projections showed different provinces would reach the peak of infections between the end of July and late September.
He said scientists had presented models that forecast between 40,000 and 50,000 coronavirus deaths before the end of the year, adding: “We must make it our single most important task to prove these projections wrong.”
The health ministry reported 12,058 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 276,242. Deaths rose by 108 to 4,079.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning, editing by Louise Heavens)