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Unprecedented third wave forces South Africa back into lockdown

Surging outbreaks driven by the delta variant have led to the country’s strictest lockdown in over a year

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A COVID-19 patient is admitted to a hospital in Johannesburg. South Africa is seeing a second wave of COVID-19 cases

A COVID-19 patient is admitted to a hospital in Johannesburg, Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

Associated Press

Earlier this year, South Africa had to deal with outbreaks linked to the COVID-19 beta variant. Now, the hardest-hit country in Africa is facing a massive resurgence of cases linked to the delta variant, reports Bloomberg.

  • Many expect this third wave of outbreaks to be longer and larger than previous waves, reports The Los Angeles Times.

Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced tighter restrictions, placing the country on level four alert — the highest alert level in more than a year, says Bloomberg.

How serious are the COVID-19 outbreaks in South Africa?

So far, South Africa has recorded 1,928,897 cases of coronavirus and almost 60,000 deaths in a population of 60 million, according to Al Jazeera.

  • “We are in the grip of a devastating wave that by all indications seems like it will be worse than all those that preceded it, its peak looks set to be higher than the previous waves,” Ramaphosa said Sunday, per Bloomberg.

Last week, the country saw a surge in cases. The seven-day average last week surpassed the peak of South Africa’s first wave and nearly reached the level of the country’s second wave, reports The Los Angeles Times.

  • Saturday, South Africa recorded more than 18,000 new cases.
  • Sunday, the country recorded more than 15,000 new cases, says Al Jazeera.

This third wave is primarily driven by the delta variant and is concentrated in the province of Gauteng. Gauteng — which includes the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, is South Africa’s economic powerhouse and most populous province, says Bloomberg.

  • Gauteng accounts for 60% of COVID-19 cases, says The Los Angeles Times.
  • Hospitals are at risk of reaching capacity within days, reports Bloomberg.

As part of the new restrictions to slow the spread to other provinces, travel in and out of Gauteng has been suspended, says CNN.

What are the new restrictions?

The tightened restrictions include a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. that requires all nonessential businesses to close by 8 p.m., reports CNN. Restaurants can only offer takeout and alcohol sales have been banned.

  • The government has banned alcohol sales four times during the pandemic, saying the hospital system cannot take any pressure from alcohol-related emergencies, reports Bloomberg.
  • Schools have closed and all gatherings — indoor or outdoor — have been banned. Only funerals with less than 50 attendees will be allowed, says The Los Angeles Times.

The country began tightening restrictions in late May to prevent a full-blown third wave, but these efforts proved to be unsuccessful due to new variants and slow vaccinations, reports The Los Angeles Times

  • Out of the country’s population of 60 million people, only 2.7 million South Africans have been partially or fully vaccinated, says Bloomberg.