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SA moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 4

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Cabinet has decided to move South Africa to adjusted alert level 4 as the country is seeing a massive resurgence of coronavirus infections.

Addressing the nation on Sunday evening on developments in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the situation has gotten worse.

“Based on scientific advice we received from the Ministerial Advisory Committee and further consultation with our provinces and metros and traditional leaders, and on the recommendation of the National Coronavirus Command Council, Cabinet has decided that the country should move to Adjusted Alert Level 4.

“Cabinet decided that to ensure that our response is appropriate and proportionate to the current situation, the additional restrictions we are announcing this evening will be in place for the next 14 days. We will assess the impact of these interventions after 14 days to determine whether they need to be maintained or adjusted,” he said.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in March last year has been continuing to mutate, creating new variants.  Last year, the country experienced the Beta variant. The Delta variant, which was first, detected in India at the end of March this year is now found in 85 countries including South Africa.

The Delta variant has now been detected in five provinces: the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

President Ramaphosa said the Delta variant is rapidly displacing the Beta variant, which has been dominant in the country until now, adding that government is concerned about the rapid spread of this variant.

“Firstly, because it is more transmissible than previously circulating viruses, meaning it is easier to catch through person-to-person contact. It is thought to be twice as contagious as the Beta variant. Secondly, because it is more contagious, it can infect far more people.

“As with the previous variants, you can pass it on without even knowing you have it. Thirdly, there is now emerging scientific evidence that people previously infected with the Beta variant do not have full protection against the Delta variant, and may get reinfected.

“Fourthly, because it is much more contagious, the measures we have so far adopted to contain the spread of the virus may no longer be sufficient to reduce transmission,” he said.

The President said even if the Delta variant is not severe, the rate at which people are infected could lead to many more people becoming ill and requiring treatment at the same time, government need to take extra precautions.

He added that the 7-day average of new daily cases nationally has overtaken the peak of the first wave in July last year, and will soon overtake the peak of the second wave experienced in January this year.

According to the President, Gauteng now accounts for more than 60 per cent of new cases in the country with the exceptions of the Northern Cape and Free State; he said infections are rising rapidly in all other provinces.

“We also must remain vigilant in the Northern Cape and Free State, which may experience a second spike of cases if the new variant spreads there as well.

“We are in the grip of a devastating wave that by all indications seems like it will be worse than those that preceded it. The peak of this third wave looks set to be higher than the previous two,” he said.

The first wave lasted 15 weeks, while the second wave lasted 9 weeks. The President said it is not yet known how long the current wave will last, but indications are that it could last longer.