Garden Route spared additional Covid-19 restrictions ... for now
Residents of the Garden Route in the Western Cape have been spared a stricter lockdown for now, despite their region having been flagged as among those experiencing a resurgence of Covid-19 infections.
In his address to the nation on Thursday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced additional lockdown restrictions for Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape — but did not announce similar restrictions for the Garden Route. The restrictions included a 10am-4am curfew and reduced off-consumption liquor sales.
The Garden route includes popular holiday destinations such as Mossel Bay, George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
Ramaphosa said minister of health Zweli Mkhize would — “in the coming days” — be visiting the Garden Route to assess the situation before the National Coronavirus Command Council decides what measures could be introduced to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the lucrative tourist destination.
In his address, Ramaphosa said SA had recorded 4,400 cases on Wednesday, which was the biggest daily increase since August, while hospital admissions also increased to more than 5,800 nationally.
The Garden Route district, Nelson Mandela Bay and the Eastern Cape's Sarah Baartman district accounted for most of the reported cases and hospital admissions in the country.
“Hospital admissions in these districts are on the rise, in some instances comparable to those during the first wave of infections,” Ramaphosa said. “In the Eastern Cape and Western Cape there has been an increase in both reported Covid-19 deaths and excess deaths. This must be a concern for every one of us.”
The biggest contributors, Ramaphosa said, were travel and gatherings. He singled out funeral “after-tears” get-togethers.
Ramaphosa said the only viable defence mechanism the world was hoping for was a vaccine.
SA was participating in the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility, known as the Covax facility, which aims to bring together financial resources across countries and share vaccine development risks so that there is equitable access to vaccines when they become available.
“We are encouraged that the Solidarity Fund will be making the initial contribution of R327m towards this vaccine procurement on behalf of our country,” Ramaphosa said. “We are also encouraged by the promising results from three trials of candidate vaccines, which have shown efficacy levels of between 70% and 95%. We await confirmation from medicine regulators that these vaccines are safe, effective and suitable for our needs.”
He said, however, that until a vaccine became available “we remain our own best protection against Covid-19”.
“It is through our everyday actions that we will keep ourselves and others safe. It is through wearing a mask in public at all times. It is by observing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings and indoor spaces where ventilation is poor. It is through regularly washing or sanitising our hands,” Ramaphosa said.