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Closed land borders and limited funerals — South Africans remain under tight pandemic restrictions

President Cyril Ramaphosa
Written by Health-e News

South Africans will have to get used to restrictions as Covid-19 regulations remain in place. In an address, President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined the adjusted rules on funerals, beaches and cross-border travel.

With beaches and borders still closed, President Cyril Ramaphosa affirmed that the country will remain under restrictions as coronavirus infections continue to climb.

In a televised address, the president announced adjusted restrictions that tried to balance the economy and curb the spread of the coronavirus. Since March, more than 1,2 million South Africans have caught the virus, and more than 33,500 people have died from Covid-19.

Curfews and closures

While most measures will remain in place, minor but significant adjustments will see limited movement between South Africa and its neighbours. Additionally, the country’s 20 land border posts will be closed until 15 February. These include the six busiest border posts, which are Beitbridge, Lebombo, Maseru Bridge, Oshoek, Ficksburg and Kopfontein.

Movement within the country has also been affected, with the curfew adjusted from 9pm to 5am, an hour earlier. Those who break the curfew will face a fine or six months in jail, or both. Closing time for a slew of establishments has also been brought forward by an hour to 8pm. These include cinemas, theatres, casinos, museums, galleries, gyms, restaurants, auctions and professional sports.

Hotels, resorts and other holiday accommodation are  still allowed to operate at full capacity, provided they follow social distancing, mask and sanitising protocols. The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.

The new adjustments also tighten restrictions on beaches. A beach is now defined as any area up to a kilometre from the shoreline and includes estuaries, rivers and lagoons, tightening any loopholes.

Only beaches in the Northern Cape remain open, but and only between 6am and 7pm. Fishermen in possession of a permit are, however, exempted.

Masks and social distancing still the first line of defence

Wearing face masks in public remains mandatory, with Ramaphosa thanking South Africans who have stuck to the rules. The wearing of a face mask has been mandatory for some time but South African’s continue to flout the regulations and government is warning that every person must don these forms of protection.

“I am greatly encouraged by how people have responded to the call to wear masks whenever in a public place, as we know this is one of the best ways to prevent transmission of the virus,” he said.

Those still flouring the regulation on masks could face six months in jail or a fine. A government gazette published after Ramaphosa’s latest address reiterated this punishment. Still, there would be some lenience for anyone undertaking vigorous exercise, as long as they maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters from any other person. The health ministry is expected to release a list of these vigorous activities, which previously included jogging and other outdoor exercise.

Limiting funerals

The president also acknowledged the sensitivity around attending funerals during the pandemic.

“Providing a fitting send-off for a departed loved one is deeply ingrained in all of us. There are certain rituals that we perform in line with our respective cultures and traditions; not just at the funeral itself but in the days leading up to the burial,” said Ramaphosa. “But these are all things we simply cannot do at this time. We are in the grip of a deadly pandemic and all these activities that would normally take place are just increasing our exposure to risk – for ourselves, for the bereaved family and for our own families at home.”

Ramaphosa urged South Africans to postpone travel for funerals. The regulations still limit funerals to a maximum of 50 people, and mask-wearing and social distancing must be maintained. What’s more, funerals may not last longer than two hours, according to new details published in the gazette.—Health-e News

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Health-e News

Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews