South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says the country will immediately return to a ban on the sale of alcohol to reduce the volume of trauma patients so that hospitals have more beds open to treat COVID-19 patients.
Confronted by surging hospitalisations due to the coronavirus, South Africa is also reinstating a night curfew to reduce traffic accidents and made it mandatory for all residents to wear face masks when in public.
Mr Ramaphosa said, in a nationally televised address Sunday night (local time), that top health officials warn of impending shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen as South Africa reaches a peak of COVID-19 cases, expected between the end of July and September.
He said some hospitals have had to turn away patients because all their beds are full.
South Africa's rapid increase in reported cases has made it one of the world's centres for COVID-19, as it is ranked as the ninth country most affected by the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The country has reported increases of more than 10,000 confirmed cases for several days and the latest daily increase was nearly 13,500.
South Africa accounts for 40 per cent of all the confirmed cases in Africa, with 276,242, an increase of 12,058 in one day.
South Africa has recorded 4079 deaths, 25 per cent of which have been in the past week, Mr Ramaphosa said.
"While the surge of infections has been expected, the force and the speed with which it has progressed has, quite understandably, caused great concern," Mr Ramaphosa said.
"Many of us are fearful of the danger this presents for ourselves, and for our families."
Mr Ramaphosa said that since the sale of alcohol was re-introduced on in June, hospitals have experienced a spike in admissions in their trauma and emergency wards.
The countrywide curfew mandates that people must not be on the roads between 9pm and 4am effective Monday.
Masks have also been declared mandatory, with all transport operators, employers, and owners of businesses and buildings now legally obliged to ensure everyone entering their businesses or premises are wearing masks.
Mr Ramaphosa lambasted citizens who have continued to have social gatherings, including parties and overcrowded funerals, saying they had contributed significantly to the rapid spread of the virus.
"In the midst of our national effort to fight against this virus there are a number of people who have taken to organising parties, who have drinking sprees, and some who walk around in crowded spaces without masks," he said.
South Africa imposed one of the world's strictest lockdowns in April and May, including closing virtually all mines, factories and businesses, and a ban on sales of liquor and cigarettes.
The measures slowed the spread of the coronavirus but South Africa's economy, already in recession, contracted dramatically, increasing unemployment above 30 per cent and hunger.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/coronavirus-south-africa-news-alcohol-banned-again-to-free-up-hospital-beds/547ca034-38c6-46e7-a86b-f4382bb77ae6