South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced a string of COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, including shutting down bars, night curfew, compulsory wearing of masks and re-imposing a ban on liquor sales.
The new development comes amidst warning from medical experts that the country’s health system is at risk of being overwhelmed due to rising coronavirus cases coupled with those needing urgent care due to alcohol-fueled incidents.
According to a report, South Africa registered a drop of as much as 60 percent in trauma cases at hospitals after a prior ban on liquor sales in April and May, a number that began to rise when the ban was lifted.
South Africa surpassed 1 million COVID-19 cases on Sunday and has so far confirmed over 26,000 deaths due to the virus.
Also, a new and more infectious strain of coronavirus has recently been detected in South Africa which has caused many countries to limit or ban travel to and from the country.
“To alleviate the pressure on the system during this time of the year, where we only have skeleton staff working, especially in the public sector, as well as in the private sector, we are asking for stricter restrictions regarding social gatherings.” Angelique Coetzee, South African Medical Association chairperson said.
South Africa’s alcohol industry was among the hardest hit and many alcohol traders had appealed to the government to try and avoid an outright ban on liquor sales.
Apart from banning liquor sales, the new restrictions included the closure of all beaches and public swimming pools in infectious hotspots as well as an extension on its curfew. Residents must now be home from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Masks are now mandatory in public spaces, said Ramaphosa, with those caught violating the mandate subject to a fine or even a criminal charge that could lead to time in jail.