South Africa shuts its borders in face of spiralling COVID-19 cases


After experiencing 190 000 new infections in 11 days and overwhelmed hospitals driven by the new COVID-19 variant, South Africa has closed its borders for 33 days and retained tough measures, which includes a ban on alcohol sales as well as closed beaches and public parks.

In a special address to the nation – his second in 15 days – South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said 20 land ports of entry, which includes Beit Bridge, used by Zimbabweans and Lebombo, used by Mozambicans, would be closed until February 15 for general entry and departure. 

An exception would be made for the transportation of fuel, cargo, goods, emergency medical attention and the return of South African nationals and residents. Foreign nationals wishing to depart to their countries, diplomats and children from neighbouring countries attending school in South Africa will also be exempted. 

He said most of the strict measures announced on December 28 would remain in place.

“All beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks and public swimming pools in hotspots areas will be closed. As before, botanical gardens, national parks, other parks where access control measures and entry limitations are in place may remain open to the public. 

“Given the risk of widespread transmission, most indoor and outdoor gatherings will not be permitted This includes social gatherings , religious gatherings, political events, traditional council meetings and gathering at sports grounds,” Ramaphosa said.

He said restrictions on funerals, in terms of which only 50 people can attend under strict COVID-19 protocols,  would remain in force. The overnight curfew will also remain in place and will now be from 9pm to 5am.

The president also revealed that 4600 people have died since the new year, and more than 15 000 admitted to hospitals, placing a massive strain on health facilities.

He said the new variant, titled 501.v2 by scientists, was responsible for the spike in infections. “Research undertaken by our scientists has shown that the massive increase in infections is largely driven by a variant of coronavirus known as 501.v2. This variant was first identified in South Africa in November. 

“There is an intensive focus in our health facilities on increasing oxygen supply and activating field hospital beds. Additional posts that were vacant are being filled, and personal protection stocks are being monitored with the Office of the Health Standards Compliance. There are currently 15 000 people with COVID-19 in hospitals nationally, placing a considerable strain on health facilities, personnel and equipment. Around a third of all COVID-19 patients in hospitals are on oxygen,” Ramaphosa said.

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