We've got news for you.

Register on TimesLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

We are only at the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic: Ramaphosa

17 June 2020 - 21:59 By Naledi Shange

The worst of the coronavirus infections is yet to come.

This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who on Wednesday highlighted that SA has still not reached its peak in terms of coronavirus infections.

“Even after 100 days, we are still near the beginning of this epidemic. It will remain with us for many more months — possibly years,” he told the nation.

“The task of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is like running a marathon race and not a sprint. We have therefore had to shape our response according to that reality.”

Ramaphosa put SA's coronavirus death toll to date at 1,674. Around 80,412 people have been infected with the virus since it broke in the country just over 100 days ago.

Ramaphosa said over the last few days, as South Africa enjoyed eased restrictions and a resumption of some business activity under level 3 of the lockdown, the number of infections had rocketed.

“Over the last few weeks, the number of infections has been rising rapidly. Nearly a third of all confirmed cases have been recorded in the last week alone. More than half of all confirmed cases have been recorded over the last two weeks,” he said.

Despite this increase in infections, Ramaphosa announced a further easing of some restrictions, saying this was in the best interests of thousands of South Africans whose livelihoods had been threatened by the closure of the sectors in which they work.

At a date soon to be announced, restaurants will be permitted to open for sit-down meals. Accredited hotels, cinemas, theatres and beauty salons will also be open for business.

Conferences and meetings for business purposes will be permitted. Non-contact sport such as tennis, golf and cricket will also resume.

Speaking to the SABC shortly after Ramaphosa's announcement, Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) CEO Wendy Alberts welcomed Ramaphosa's announcement.

“We are very delighted with the news. Thank you to the president for understanding challenges and hardships of our industry,” she said.

The association had been on the brink of pursuing legal action against the government to allow restaurants to reopen. Alberts said their legal consultations would continue to establish exactly what the president's announcement meant for them.

Ramaphosa also expressed concern over climbing Covid-19 infections in the Eastern Cape. The Western Cape remains the epicentre of the outbreak, accounting for 60% of all infections in the country.

“There are indications that transmission in the Eastern Cape is now starting to rise and may just be a few weeks behind the Western Cape,” he said.

“For many of us, what was once a distant disease is now coming much closer. More and more of us now know someone who is infected, whether at work or school, or in our church, mosque, temple or synagogue.”

There are now 80,412 confirmed cases in SA, the department of health said on Wednesday night.

There have been 49 new deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,674. Of the 49 new deaths, 43 were from the Western Cape and six from the Eastern Cape.