Countries tighten curbs as Delta variant spreads

People wearing protective face masks stand with their oxygen cylinders outside an oxygen shop to get them refilled, amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia. [Reuters]

Many countries have tightened their restrictions to curb the spread of the Delta Covid-19 variant first detected in India, as the highly contagious virus has been reported in more than 90 countries and regions around the world.

The Delta variant, dominating the new infections recorded in South Africa, was the major contributor to the country's third wave of Covid-19 pandemic, according to Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform. 

South Africa, the worst-affected nation in terms of coronavirus cases and deaths in Africa, has 1,928,897 confirmed cases, according to data by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday said his country will move to lockdown Level 4 for 14 days with stringent measures to contain the surge in cases. From June 28 to July 11, "all gatherings whether indoors or outdoors are prohibited. These include religious, political, cultural and social gatherings. A curfew will be in place from 9pm to 4am, and all non-essential establishments will need to close by 8pm," he said.

Restaurants must only serve takeaways, said the president. To ease the pressure placed on hospital services by alcohol-related emergency incidents, the sale of alcohol is prohibited for both on-site and off-site consumption. Schools will start closing from tomorrow, and all schools will be expected to be closed by the end of the week.

"Our priority is to break the chain of transmission by reducing person-to-person contact and thereby help flatten the curve," said Ramaphosa. "The measures that we are putting in place now are designed to allow as much economic activity to continue as possible while containing the spread of the virus."

Kuwait, which announced the discovery of the first cases of the Delta variant on June 14, is also suffering from an increase in cases. On Sunday, the country registered 1,558 new Covid-19 cases, raising the nationwide tally to 351,481, the Kuwaiti Health Ministry reported. Kuwait has started to implement a government decision to allow only vaccinated citizens and residents to visit shopping malls, salons, gyms, and restaurants.

Ahmad Al-Manfouhi, general director of Kuwait Municipality, said the country's armed forces would join state bodies to help stop the spread of coronavirus and to enforce government restrictions.

Al-Manfouhi, who also heads the main committee to follow up on the implementation of health measures, said that the committee discussed on Wednesday the mechanism for implementing the government decision.

The committee decided to use the armed forces to help civilian health teams implement the decision, starting next Sunday, which is the starting date for restricting unvaccinated citizens and residents from entering restaurants, cafes, gyms, salons, and shopping malls covering more than 6,000 square meters.

Al-Manfouhi said Kuwait needs to intensify the application of health requirements during the next two months, hoping to achieve herd immunity by increasing the percentage of vaccinated people. Australia's most populous state of New South Wales on Saturday reported a record daily increase of 30 locally acquired Covid-19 cases, all of which were linked to east Sydney.  

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