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South Africa bans liquor sales over Easter to prevent surge

South Africa will restrict the sale of alcohol and limit the size of religious and social gatherings over Easter to prevent the holiday from contributing to a new surge of COVID-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Tuesday.

Addressing the nation Tuesday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said alcohol fuels reckless behavior, and for this reason, the government has banned the sale of alcohol that is taken away from the point of sale to be consumed elsewhere.

The ban will be in effect from Friday to Monday, which is the duration of the Easter holiday.

“On-site sales at restaurants, shebeens, and bars will be allowed, according to licensing conditions, up until 23:00 p.m. (2100 GMT),” the president said.

A maximum of 250 people will be allowed at indoor religious gatherings while 500 people are allowed for outdoor events.

Ramaphosa’s announcement came after he consulted health experts and religious leaders on Tuesday to discuss ways to curb the spread of new infections.

So far South Africa has vaccinated just over 250, 000 health care workers as part of a Johnson & Johnson study, far short of 1.25 million health workers to be vaccinated as part of the first phase of the country’s vaccination program.

The second phase will see vaccinations of the elderly and those with co-morbidities, which Ramaphosa said would begin in mid-May.

“Although there have been delays in securing vaccine supplies, we are still confident in achieving our vaccination targets,” he said.

“We have secured 11 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which we know to be effective against the dominant variants in our country,” said Ramaphosa. He said South Africa is finalizing a further order of 20 million doses of the J&J vaccine.

South Africa is also about to sign a contract to purchase 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine but they are only expected to arrive in the second half of the year, he said. Together, the J&J and Pfizer vaccines will provide South Africa with enough doses to vaccinate 41 million of the country’s population of 60 million, he said.

On Monday Ramaphosa announced that a vaccine manufacturing facility in South Africa would provide 30 million doses for the country and 220 million for the rest of the continent.

The Aspen Pharmacare sterile manufacturing facility, which is based in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape province, is to begin producing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and is expected to start delivering these batches next month, he said. The facility will receive large batches of the components of the J&J vaccine, blend them and then put them in vials and package them, a process called fill and finish.

“Aspen will produce 30 million J&J doses for South Africa and more than 220 million doses that will be sold to other African countries,” Ramaphosa said.

“The $200 million Aspen facility has the capacity to produce 300 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine annually,” he said.

South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 infections on the continent with more than 1.5 million cases and more than 52,000 recorded deaths from the virus.


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