President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans to “act responsibly” as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic gripped two provinces, with fears that it will sweep through the rest of the country during end of year celebrations.
His worried Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, Saturday night ‘raided’ popular Cape Town bars and nightspots where merrymakers were breaking lockdown rules on social distancing, mask wearing and staying safe.
What is bothering the South African government is the rapid rise in new cases in both the Eastern Cape Province – where the second wave of the virus has a full grip and is overwhelming – with as a similar pattern emerging in the Garden Route of the Western Cape, which borders the Eastern Cape, as well as in greater Cape Town, capital of the Western Cape.
The fear is that the wave will prove unstoppable amid end year celebrations and family gatherings which are bound to drive infections up further, threatening to overwhelm South Africa’s already struggling medical system.
Overnight, South Africa recorded another 4,932 new Covid-19 infections and at least 160 more deaths. The pandemic has so far claimed over 21,000 lives.
Ramaphosa, speaking to the nation prior to his health minister’s on-the-ground inspection of potential ‘superspreader’ events and venues, had announced a return to tougher emergency restrictions in the major urban area of the Eastern Cape, the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, where conditions are severe and from where nearly half of all new infections are coming.
But South Africa health authorities are moving away from the idea of sweeping new lockdowns, focusing instead on hotpots and attempting to stop the spread by restricting alcohol sales, imposing a tighter curfew between 10pm and 4am and reducing the numbers of people attending open-air and indoor venues.
Post-funeral ‘after tears’ parties, which are widely practiced in the country, have been banned outright as being high-probability superspreader events.
Along with Mkhize on his night-life patrol of some of Cape Town’s popular hangouts was Western Cape regional Health Minister Nomafrench Mbombo.
They found at least two venues not in compliance with Covid-19 regulations, with patrons not wearing masks with no social distancing, among other violations.
Despite the ‘raid’, it is expected that South Africans – like many others globally who have become ‘Covid-fatigued’ – will largely ignore government regulations and latest warnings from Ramaphosa that policing of public health measures will be toughened up.