The extension of stringent restrictions will impede the South African economy’s recovery from its biggest contraction in a century last year, when it shrank 7%. In May, the central bank forecast that the output will expand 4.2% this year and 2.3% in 2022.
South Africa has had almost 2.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases so far and over 63,000 of those who’ve been diagnosed with the disease have died. Excess natural death reports indicate the actual toll could be triple that.
“For the last two weeks, the country has consistently recorded an average of nearly 20,000 daily new cases,” Ramaphosa said. “At present, the country has over 200,000 active Covid-19 cases. In the last two weeks over 4,200 South Africans have lost their lives to Covid-19.”
New cases have been fueled by the spread of the highly infectious delta variant, which was first detected in India and is now South Africa’s dominant strain. The Gauteng province, which includes capital Pretoria and economic hub Johannesburg, has been particularly hard hit and its hospitals are battling to cope with the patient influx.
Stop-start restrictions on alcohol sales, including an outright ban reimposed two weeks ago, are aimed at reducing trauma cases and discouraging social gatherings. The measures have curbed revenue for producers including Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s SA Breweries unit, which is contesting them in court on the grounds that they violate the constitution.
Ramaphosa said the Unemployment Insurance Fund decided to extend temporary support workers who lost their income due to level 4 restrictions. Since its inception last year, the so-called Covid-19 relief plan has provided more than 60 billion rand ($4.2 billion) to protect jobs, he said.
While the government was slow off the mark to begin administering vaccines, its inoculation program has picked up over recent weeks and more than 4.2 million doses have been given so far. The number of vaccinations issued has doubled in the past month, with 190,000 shots being administered each week day, the president said.