Virus-hit South Africa curbs land border traffic, extends restrictions

PRETORIA (AFP) – South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday extended recently imposed coronavirus restrictions and placed curbs on land border traffic, as the country grapples with an unprecedented surge in cases fuelled by a new virus strain.

The continent’s most industrialised economy and worst COVID-hit country went back into partial lockdown last month to stem flaring infections.

Alcohol sales were banned to ease pressure on emergency wards, large gatherings prohibited, parks shut and a 9pm curfew imposed to limit exposure.

Ramaphosa on Monday said those measures would be extended until further notice.

“Cabinet has decided to maintain the country on adjusted alert level three,” the President announced in an address to the nation.

A worker from a private ambulance service pushes a woman on a stretcher towards the temporary ward at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria. PHOTO: AFP

“Most of the measures that were announced on December 28, 2020 will therefore remain in place.”

In addition, Ramaphosa said travel across South Africa’s 20 land points of entry would be restricted until mid-February.

Cross-border transport of fuel, cargo and goods will still be allowed, however, and several other exceptions were made including travel for school and medical reasons.

The land border measures were decided after thousands of people tried to cross into the country to escape a new lockdown in neighbouring Zimbabwe last week.

The rush caused backlogs at the Beitbridge border post, South Africa’s second-busiest entry port.

Over 100 travellers reportedly caught coronavirus as they queued for passport controls and coronavirus tests at the site.