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South Africa imposes new virus curbs

South Africa imposes new virus curbs

It announces ban on alcohol and makes wearing mask mandatory in public.

South Africa banned alcohol sales and made masks mandatory in public from Tuesday after a surge in coronavirus cases, as the World Health Organisation warned that pandemics far more deadly than COVID-19 may lie ahead.

Nations around the world are struggling with winter spikes in infections that have pushed the global caseload close to 81 million, even as the rollout of vaccines gathers pace in North America and Europe.

‘Lack of vigilance’

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced a ban on selling alcohol and said face masks will be compulsory in public after his nation became the first in Africa to record one million cases.

“We have let down our guard, and unfortunately we are now paying the price,” said Mr. Ramaphosa, blaming “super-spreader” social events and an “extreme lack of vigilance over the holiday period” for the spike.

Mr. Ramaphosa said data showed “excessive alcohol consumption” leads to an increase in trauma cases reported at hospitals, causing an “unnecessary” strain on public health facilities.

Surging cases also forced authorities in Rio de Janeiro — one of Brazil’s worst-hit cities — to announce Monday that they will block access to beaches on December 31 to prevent crowds celebrating New Year’s Eve.

And in Spain, where the death toll has topped 50,000, the Health Minister said the government would set up a registry of people who refuse to be vaccinated, and share it with other European Union member states.

WHO warning

Vaccinations in Spain and other EU countries started over the weekend, and authorities fear vaccine hesitancy and rejection could hamper those efforts — especially because of misinformation campaigns on social media.

The coronavirus has devastated lives and economies across the globe, but the WHO warned Monday that worse pandemics could like ahead, urging the world to get serious about preparedness.

“This is a wakeup call,” WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan told reporters at a briefing marking a year since the UN agency first learned of the new virus spreading in China. “This pandemic… has spread around the world extremely quickly and it has affected every corner of this planet, but this is not necessarily the big one,” Mr. Ryan added.

“We need to get ready for something that may even be more severe in the future.”

The warnings were backed up by the worrying figures and trends reported worldwide.

South Korea, one of the nations hailed for its success during the first months of the pandemic, on Tuesday logged its highest daily death toll since the beginning of the pandemic as it battled a third wave of infections.

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