Stringent lockdown measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday, including the suspension of liquor sales and the return of a night curfew were being imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said this in a follow-up briefing on Monday.
She said though SA was number 25 in terms of population size in the world, it is now ranked 10th highest in the number of Covid-19 cases.
She said SA ranked higher in terms of the number of new cases per day. “We must do everything to protect this beautiful nation of ours.”
Dlamini-Zuma said the announcement by Ramaphosa on Sunday was to combat the spread of the virus.
She said it was now a criminal offence not to wear a mask in a public place.
“When you wear a mask, you are not protecting only yourself but people about you,” she said.
She said if one did not have a formal mask, one could use a cloth or any material to cover the mouth and nose.
“Now it is mandatory. It is mandatory to wear a face mask because it is one of the measures at our disposal to protect ourselves and to protect people about us.
“The provision in the regulations now says the mandatory wearing of the face mask or any face mask, cloth mask or anything that you can use to cover your mouth and nose while you are in public.”
She said the regulation also says one cannot enter any form of public transport without wearing a mask. She said social distancing still remained important and people should avoid activities that disregarded those responsibilities.
“That is why social activities are still not allowed. So one of the things that we know becomes difficult when people are sitting together and continue to wear masks is also alcohol.”
She said when people are drinking in groups, they let their guard down.
“Their masks will go and social distancing will go. The spread will happen and we have seen it in many instances.”
She said drinking of alcohol socially brought people together and discouraged them from using masks, from social distancing and sanitising.
“More importantly when people have taken liquor, they get drunk, they engage in irresponsible behaviour, some of them become violent, they start fighting, killing each other.
“Even at home they become violent. When they get into their cars, they start driving recklessly, creating accidents.”
She said those people had to be rushed to hospitals, which means they were taking space that should be used to look after people who are ill and people who have Covid.
“Some of them need theatre, ICU beds and ventilators and taking away from those who are ill and who need it from Covid-19.”
Alcohol-related emergency cases diverted the services of medical personnel who should be in ICU looking after people with Covid-19.
“What happens then is the ICU gets full, beds in hospital get full and people who need those beds will not have access to them. It is for that reason that the cabinet has decided we need to suspend the sale of alcohol transportation and dispensing of alcohol,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
Dlamini-Zuma said the government was not limiting people’s rights.
“The government is trying to limit the spread of the virus because the spread happens through the movement of people. The virus is moved by people. It is spread by people. It is me who moves it. It is you who will move it. Part of limiting the movement is part of limiting the spread of virus,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
She said it was for that reason that the curfew was brought back from 9pm to 4am. Interprovincial travel is not allowed, except for funerals, work and business travel.