South Africa’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have exponentially soared in the last several weeks to over a quarter-million as the government reintroduces restrictions to ban alcohol sales, along with new night-time curfews, and mandatory mask-wearing, a move that will hopefully alleviate the country’s hospital system by mitigating the spread of the virus, reported BBC News.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the African nation on Sunday and said the sale of alcohol would be suspended with “immediate effect.”
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The move to ban alcohol sales across the country is expected to take the pressure off the national healthcare system as virus cases surge.
In Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city and capital of Gauteng province, hospitals are poorly equipped with a lack of oxygen concentrators for virus patients. As a whole, the entire public hospital system has depleted tools to save lives in the pandemic – hence why Ramaphosa has banned alcohol sales for the second time this year.
South Africa has over 276,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including more than 4,000 deaths. Cases have exponentially risen in the last several weeks. Government projections indicate 50,000 people could die by the end of the year.
South Africa is the hardest-hit country on the continent. The government imposed the first round of Martial law-style lockdowns in late March, in the attempt to flatten the infection curve. The restrictions in March included a ban on alcohol and cigarettes, and people were forced to stay home, only allowed to leave for essential travel.
Ramaphosa said during the address that “most” people have been social distancing to mitigate the virus spread, but he acknowledged a portion of the population has not.
“There are a number of people who have taken to organizing parties, who have drinking sprees, and some who walk around crowded spaces without wearing masks,” said the president.
The new restrictions will last through August 15. Just several weeks ago, residents were once again allowed to buy alcohol after three months of bans.
Doctors, in the country, noted hospital visits fell during the ban on alcohol, allowing doctors and nurses to dedicate more time to save the lives of virus patients.