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South Africa shuts land borders as Covid-19 infections rise

By Betty Njeru | January 12th 2021
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa. [AFP]

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday announced the closure of land borders for a month, in a bid to curb the fast spread of the coronavirus.

All major South African borders save for a few will be remain closed until February 15, in an effort to address the congestion and high infection risk as thousands of South Africans return to towns after the holidays.

“To reduce congestion and the high risk of transmission, Cabinet has decided that the 20 land ports of entry that are currently open will be closed until the 15th of February for general entry and departure,” Ramaphosa announced.

The border posts include: Lebombo, Maseru Bridge, Beitbridge, Oshoek, Ficksburg and Kopfontein.

The president, however, said exceptions would be made for the transportation of fuel, cargo, emergency medical attention, the return of South African nationals and permanent residents or persons with other valid visas.

He acknowledged the effects the pandemic had had on the country including overwhelming hospitals with patients.

"The pandemic in our country is now at its most devastating. The number of new infections, the number of hospital admissions, and the deaths that continue to take place come far higher than it has ever been since the first case was recorded in our country," he said in a televised address.

Other restrictions introduced in December will remain in place including a 9pm-5am curfew, ban on sale alcohol, social gathering events and limited attendees at funerals and weddings.

Ramaphosa singled out funerals as super-spreader events. “Funerals have become a death trap for many of our people,” he said.

The country awaits the announcement on re-opening of schools.

South African government also plans on embarking on a mass vaccination programme, a project Ramaphosa termed the biggest logistical operation in South Africa’s history.

On Tuesday, the country had registered over 1.25 million Covid-19 cases and 33,579 deaths.

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