South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Sunday that his country will impose stricter measures in the face of a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases that indicate the virus is “surging again” in Africa’s worst-affected nation.
Positive cases in South Africa in the past seven days were 31 per cent higher than the week before, and 66 per cent higher than the week before that, Ramaphosa said in a live TV address. He said some parts of the country, including the commercial hub Johannesburg and the capital city Pretoria, were now in “a third wave.”
In response, Ramaphosa said that from Monday the nighttime curfew would be extended by an hour to start at 11 p.m. until 4 a.m. A maximum of 100 people would be allowed at indoor social gatherings and no more than 250 at an outdoor gathering. Nonessential businesses must close by 10 p.m.
“We have tended to become complacent,” Ramaphosa said, warning virus infections were “surging again” at a time when the country moves into its winter months and people were more likely to gather together indoors, likely further increasing infections.
South Africa’s decision to go back to stricter measures reinforces — as the crisis in India has already done so starkly — how the global pandemic is far from over.
“We have seen in other countries the tragic consequences of leaving the virus to spread unchecked,” Ramaphosa said. “We cannot let our guard down.”
Hardest-hit country in Africa
South Africa has more than 1.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 56,000 deaths, which are more than 30 per cent of the cases and 40 per cent of the deaths recorded by all of Africa’s 54 countries, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Africa recorded 4,515 new cases over the past 24 hours and Ramaphosa said the “positivity rate” among tests conducted was now “a cause for concern.”
South Africa had been under lockdown level one, the lowest of its five levels, but was now reverting to an “adjusted level two,” Ramaphosa announced. Authorities did stop short of reimposing the strict measures like limits on people’s movements during the day and a ban on the sales of alcohol and tobacco products that were in place at times last year.
The surge in cases also cast more attention on South Africa’s lagging vaccine rollout. Only around 1.5 per cent of the country’s 60 million people have received a vaccine. Health workers were the first priority but less than 500,000 of the 1.2 million health workers have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson one-dose shot.
South Africa only began vaccinating its elderly citizens two weeks ago. In total, 963,000 South Africans had received a vaccine by Sunday, the government said, although half of those have only received the first of two required doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
South Africa has “secured” more than 50 million vaccines, Ramaphosa said, but currently has only 1.3 million doses in the country that are ready to be rolled out. More Pfizer-BioNTech doses are expected to arrive next week, and weekly after that, he said. South Africa hopes to vaccinate around 40 million people by the end of the year, a target that looks increasingly unlikely.
–From The Associated Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of early Monday morning, Canada had reported 1,378,680 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 35,644 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,512. More than 23.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
In Atlantic Canada on Sunday, Nova Scotia reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported seven new cases of COVID-19. Health officials in the province have ramped up restrictions in some communities in the western part of the province as they deal with a cluster of cases.
New Brunswick, meanwhile, reported nine new cases of COVID-19. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.
Quebec health officials on Sunday reported 315 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths. The province is allowing restrictions to ease in several regions on Monday as case numbers decline.
In Ontario — which reported 1,033 cases and 18 deaths on Sunday — people aged 80 and up are eligible as of Monday to move up the date of their second dose of vaccine to to just four weeks after their first shot was administered.
In the Prairie provinces, hard-hit Manitoba on Sunday reported 292 new COVID-19 cases and seven additional deaths. The province has been forced to send intensive care patients out of province to try and make space in strained hospitals.
In Saskatchewan, health officials reported one new death and 171 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The news came on the same day Saskatchewan took the first step on its reopening roadmap.
Alberta on Sunday reported 391 new cases and five additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province fell to 446 people from 478 on Saturday.
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon.
British Columbia will report updated figures covering the weekend later Monday.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 170.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to an online coronavirus tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.5 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, a sharp rise in cases from new variants in parts of Southeast Asia that had been less affected by the pandemic has prompted new restrictions, factory closures and attempts to rapidly scale up vaccination programs.
Vietnam will suspend incoming international flights to its capital Hanoi from Tuesday.
China on Monday reimposed anti-coronavirus travel controls on its southern province of Guangdong, announcing anyone leaving the populous region must be tested for the virus following a spike in infections that has alarmed authorities.
India’s Serum Institute will increase production of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines by nearly 40 per cent in June, officials said on Monday, in the first step toward alleviating a shortage that has worsened the country’s battle with coronavirus. The world’s second-most populous nation has struggled with a catastrophic outbreak of COVID-19 since last month, which is only now starting to abate after killing tens of thousands of people.
In the Americas, Venezuela will receive five million coronavirus vaccines via the COVAX program as of July and will seek to receive doses of the Johnson & Johnson inoculation, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday.
In Europe, German Health Minister Jens Spahn and his counterparts in the 16 federal states will on Monday discuss control mechanisms for coronavirus test centres following fraud accusations, a ministry spokesperson said.
In the Middle East, Iraq agreed to transfer $125 million US of frozen Iranian funds for the purchase of 16 million vaccine doses, Iran’s energy minister was quoted as saying by state media on Saturday.
In Africa, Burkina Faso, one of several countries in Africa that has yet to launch a COVID-19 vaccination campaign, received its first shipment under the COVAX scheme on Sunday.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 8:20 a.m. ET