Government has enforced new measures, including an immediate ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol, in response to the surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement on Sunday night but said that the country would remain on level three lockdown.
Government has also reintroduced a curfew between 9pm and 4am.
President Ramaphosa said that the new measures were being enforced following callous behaviour by some South Africans despite the imposed restrictions and the need to avail medical facilities for COVID-19 cases.
“It is concerning that many are downplaying the seriousness of the virus, despite all evidence to the contrary and what we have cautioned on numerous occasions.”
Hospitals across the country have been recording an increase in trauma-related cases which had dropped by 65% during the hard lockdown when the sale of alcohol was banned.
After a public showdown with the taxi industry, government has backed down, allowing taxis doing local trips to increase loading capacity to 100% if they open windows and everyone wears a mask. Only taxis doing long-distance travel are limited to 70% capacity.
President Ramaphosa said that they had ruled out returning to harder lockdowns of level 4 and 5 to avoid further devastation of the economy. Some provinces had called for intermittent harder lockdowns to deal with the rapidly rising cases of the deadly COVID-19 cases. Ramaphosa said that the country could not afford the economic consequences of a harder lockdown.
However, the president also emphasised that South Africans shared the responsibility of bringing down the rate of coronavirus infections which now stands at 12,000 new cases daily.
During his address to the nation last night, President Ramaphosa said that the work to save lives must be pursued in tandem with rebuilding the economy and deepening measures to protect livelihoods.
Lockdown level five and four saw most sectors of the economy shut down, leading to massive job losses and the permanent closure of some businesses.
Ramaphosa warned of an extraordinary impact on the economy should the country revert to these levels.
“The advice we have received is that taking this step now would not necessarily achieve a significant reduction in the rate of transmission and would come at an extraordinary economic cost, putting more livelihoods at risk and potentially causing long-lasting social harm.”
Ramaphosa encouraged an increase of natural ventilation and a decrease in the number of people sharing the same spaces to fight the deadly disease at workplaces and other public spaces.
Regulations on the wearing of masks will also be tightened. The president lamented those who had violated the requirement to wear masks all the time while in public spaces.